Republicans, Democrats Agree: Romney and Tea Party Were Wrong

This week on our Facebook page, you saw this bit of good news: that new polling finds huge bipartisan support for standards that increase fuel economy and reduce carbon pollution in America’s cars and trucks.

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These standards, which were written jointly by EPA and the Department of Transportation, will increase the fuel economy of new cars to an average 35 miles per gallon by 2017 and to an average of 55 miles per gallon by 2025. While they are hugely popular today, their enactment was not always a foregone conclusion. It’s a reminder that elections matter when it comes to clean energy.

Some Members of Congress Tried to Stop It

Members of Congress tried to repeal EPA’s scientific finding that greenhouse gases like carbon pollution are dangerous. Forty seven senators voted to repeal the endangerment finding in 2010 and a majority of House members tried to repeal it on more than one occasion. If these folks had succeeded, EPA could not have gotten involved in reducing carbon pollution from vehicles. In fact, when the Tea Party took over the House of Representatives in 2011, their very first bill (H.R. 1), specifically tried to stop EPA from working on these standards.

Mitt Romney Wanted to Stop It

During his long campaign to win the Republican nomination for President, Mitt Romney flip flopped and said that he would “get the EPA out of its effort to manage carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and trucks.” Keeping EPA involved in the process means that we’ll reduce more pollution and save more oil.

These new standards will save consumers up to $5,000 over the lifetime of one of these new vehicles. They will save approximately 4 billion barrels of oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2 billion metric tons. The net benefits to society could climb as high as $451 billion. It’s no wonder that these standards are popular. And it’s a good thing Big Oil and its political allies didn’t get their way.

The Only Presidential Candidate Who Calls Climate Change a Threat

In a year of sweltering heat, withering drought, some of the worst wildfires on record and catastrophic hurricanes that have ravaged our Gulf coast and Mid-Atlantic states, we have one presidential candidate who thinks climate change is a political punch line. The other rightly calls it a threat to our planet.

Climate change puts us all at risk – the 47 percent, the 99 percent and the 1 percent – whether our state is red or blue. We need a president who understands what’s happening to our world and will act – and has acted – to address this grave and gathering threat.

When it comes to our energy future, the candidates have laid out a clear choice as well.

President Obama wants to invest in energy efficiency, promote renewable power and protect our health. He’s led the country forward toward each those goals.

Mitt Romney would bet our future on the fossil fuels of the past.

This is a choice between responsibility and recklessness – and the choice is ours to make.

We can continue to move forward with a clean energy revolution that reduces the carbon pollution that is warming our planet. Or we can turn back the clock on needed change – and turn our backs on thescience and extreme weather before our very eyes.

In his first term, Obama secured a historic agreement with the automobile industry that will nearly double the gas mileage of our cars by 2025. It will save consumers $100 billion a year at the pump. It will reduce our oil consumption by 3 million barrels a day – nearly half our oil imports. And it will cut our carbon pollution from new cars in half.

Obama has proposed standards to reduce carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants. In a second term, he could do the same for existing plants.

He has promoted important gains in the energy efficiency of our homes, workplaces and the appliances we use daily.

On his watch, wind turbines have grown to provide 4 percent of our nation’s electricity, with the help of a modest tax credit that is supported by Obama, along with many Republican members of Congress. Romney has pledged to end the credit.

Romney claims these important gains in renewable fuels and efficiency have come at the expense of domestic fossil fuel production. The facts, though, tell a different story.

At 6.2 million barrels a day, U.S. domestic oil production is up 24 percent since Obama was elected. Natural gas production is at an all- time high.

Part of the reason, though, is that we are drilling in shale, using an industrial technique called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

This dangerous and often destructive process has put our communities, ranches and farms at risk. It threatens our water, wildlife, air and lands. And it is racing ahead across the country at a rate that has outpaced the public safeguards we need. Obama has begun to put measures in place to protect our waters and land; Romney has pledged to give states control of oil and gas development on federal lands.

We’ll continue to produce oil and gas at home, no matter who sits in the White House the next four years. The question is whether we’ll insist that it be done responsibly or let the oil and gas companies do it their way.

We have a long way to go to address the challenge of climate change, embrace the opportunities of a clean energy future and ensure the health of future generations. Obama, though, has made a good start.

We never expected his work would be completed in a few years. We need to rally around the chance to advance our progress in a second term.

This election season has taken its toll – on all of us. The condescension, pandering and incessant spin. The outrageous levels of corporate spending. The disappointments, distortions, deceptions and lies. I’m as tired of it as anyone else.

Now, though, is no time to falter. This is no time to lose heart.

This election matters, and matters greatly, especially to those of us who care about what happens to our environment, who care about the kind of world we will leave to our children.

We have a choice on Tuesday between two men for president. Barack Obama is the best choice for our future. We hold within our hands, each of us, the political power to make that choice. That is the miracle of American democracy. It begins, for us all, with a single vote. Stand up this week and make it count.

Message from ‘Frankenstorm’: Ignore Climate Change No Longer

Political campaign strategists closely monitor the possibility of inclement weather in the weeks, days and hours before every election day – and for good reason:

Stormy weather depresses voter turnout in ways that can affect election outcomes.

With a freak “Frankenstorm” now bearing down on the eastern third of the United States, this is shaping up as one monster of an election.

It’s as if Mother Nature is sending yet another message to American voters:

Ignore me no longer.

Climate change and global warming super-charges storms like hurricanes, and increases the frequency and severity of weather disasters. Sea level rise also increases the danger of flooding when storms strike our coastal states.

Disappointingly, climate change so far has been a non-issue in this election, despite this year’s unprecedented heat, flooding and other disasters, such as the freak “derecho” storm that slammed Washington, D.C. and Tropical Storm Isaac, which made a mess of the Republican convention.

Now, climate change is unavoidable.

President Obama and Mitt Romney both cancelled campaign events in Virginia, which is in Hurricane Sandy’s path. Campaign strategists are anxiously weighing what to do about millions of dollars worth of TV advertising buys if the power goes out in swing states.

And don’t think the coming storm and climate change generally shouldn’t factor into the dominant theme of this election – the economy.

Already, forecasters are predicting that Hurricane Sandy will be another billion-dollar disaster.  It will likely become just the latest climate change-related disaster to batter our economy.

Last year’s extreme weather – floods, heat waves, hailstorms and tornadoes – contributed to insurance losses of $34 billion, according to Ceres, the nonprofit business group that advocates for sustainable leadership.

This year’s record heat and drought alone – more than 25,000 new record high temperatures were set over the summer – has already cost private insurers and the federal crop insurance program more than $25 billion in damages, a Ceres report shows.

Those are real effects on our economy.

Even if it hasn’t been an issue on the campaign trail, the differences in presidential candidates on climate change and what to do about it are clear.

Mitt Romney has flipped-flopped on climate change and its causes. He wants to increase our dependence on fossil fuels – the biggest contributor to climate change – and decrease our development of clean, renewable energy, just as we’re making great strides. He dismisses climate change with a shrug and a smirk, preferring to ignore the problem instead of addressing it.

President Obama, on the other hand, is taking real steps to address climate change. He is pushing through standards to decrease emissions from power plants and automobiles, and supports federal policies and programs that have doubled our supply of clean energy in the past four years alone. To level the playing field and create real market competition in the energy industry, he wants to cut $4 billion in annual taxpayer breaks to for the fossil fuel industry, while continuing programs like the production tax credit (PTC) that has helped create tens of thousands of wind industry jobs.

As President Obama said at the Democratic Convention, “…climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future.”

Reiterating that point in an interview with MTV this week, he added, “we’re not moving as fast as we need to. And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation. So this is a critical issue.”

As Mother Nature continues to show us, we need to quit ignoring the issue of climate change, which is breeding the weather disasters we continue to face.

And there’s only one presidential candidate who shown the leadership we need to that; only one presidential candidate who hasn’t ignored or ridiculed the issue:

That’s President Obama.

The Differences Between Obama and Romney, In Their Own Words

The debates are done; the differences are now clear.

Looking back at earlier debates and public remarks, and you’ll see the stark differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney on energy, environment and health issues.

Mitt Romney has promised to roll back basic air and water protections and stop the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting mercury and other toxic power plant emissions. He wants to eliminate federal oversight of oil and gas drilling on federal lands. He opposes new standards that will double our auto mileage and cut our gasoline bills dramatically while simultaneously helping our environment and air quality. He would end support of the dramatic growth we’re making in clean, renewable, made-in-America energy, and instead do whatever possible to expand our dependence on oil, coal and other dirty fuels.  Romney has moved his rhetoric toward the center in the debates – a tacit acknowledgment of where the American public is – but he hasn’t shifted his campaign’s anti-environmental positions at all.

President Obama has pledged to continue clean air and water improvements and address climate change instead of ignoring it. He has made it clear he will keep building on the growth in the clean energy industry, creating jobs, clearing our air and decreasing our dependence on foreign oil along the way. He wants to eliminate billions of dollars in oil and gas subsidies, and keep our public lands in the hands of those who are supposed to control them — the American public.

Americans support clean energy and the environment. A recent University of Texas poll, for instance, found that 58 percent of Americans are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports expanding investments in renewable energy than those who don’t. Furthermore, poll after poll shows voters prefer President Obama’s plan to move America toward a more sustainable future. An October poll from USA Today/Gallup gave Obama a 13-point advantage of Romney on energy issues. Even Gov. Romney seems to recognize this, as he has tried to portray himself as an advocate of clean energy despite the content of his platform.

Don’t take our word on all of this. Remember what the candidates themselves said on these issues:

President Obama wants to end $4 billion in annual tax breaks for oil and gas companies; expand production of clean, renewable energy and set standards to get 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy by 2035.

Mitt Romney wants to end bipartisan renewable energy programs like the Production Tax Credit for wind energy; make it easier for oil and coal companies to get permits and turn much of the oversight for energy exploration to state regulators.

 PRESIDENT OBAMA
“We’ve got to control our own energy … not only oil and natural gas, which we’ve been investing in, but also we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy sources of the future, not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars.” (Second presidential debate, Oct. 16, 2012)

“I believe we can create more jobs by controlling more of our own energy. After 30 years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, your cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in two decades.  (Speech in Miami, Oct. 11, 2012).

 MITT ROMNEY

“I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas.” (Second presidential debate, Oct. 16, 2012).

“In place of real energy, Obama has focused on an imaginary world where government-subsidized windmills and solar panels could power the economy.” (OpEd in Columbus Dispatch, March 5, 2012).

Mitt Romney has flip-flopped on whether he believes the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows humans are contributing to global warming. He has indicated he doesn’t think climate change is something that can – or needs to be – addressed.

President Obama agrees with science, and knows that climate change is contributing to natural disasters today and hurting our children’s future tomorrow. He wants to continue reducing carbon emissions from cars and power plants and shift toward clean, renewable energy.

PRESIDENT OBAMA
“My plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They are a threat to our children’s future.” (Convention speech, Sept. 6, 2012).

“Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.” (Response to National Academy of Sciences Questionnaire Science Debate 2012, Sept. 4, 2012)

MITT ROMNEY
“I’m not in this race to slow the rise of the oceans or to heal the planet.” (Remarks on Meet the Press, Sept. 7, 2012)

“My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.” (Speech at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh PA, Oct. 27, 2011).

President Obama supports standards to reduce toxic emissions from power plants and big polluters.

Mitt Romney has said he would block the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide, and opposes EPA limits on emissions of mercury and other toxic power plant emissions. He also has said he wants to change the Clean Air Act, eliminating the health-based science considerations on which the law is based.

 PRESIDENT OBAMA
“We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.  America should be in a race to the top.  And I believe we can win that race.” (Speech to Congress, Sept. 8, 2011).

“While we must acknowledge the need for differentiated responses, any effort to curb carbon emissions must include the fast-growing carbon emitters who can do more to reduce their air pollution without inhibiting growth.” (Speech to United Nations, May 25, 2011).

 MITT ROMNEY
 “Now I know there is also a movement to say that carbon dioxide should be guided or should be managed by the Environmental Protection Agency. I disagree with that. I exhale carbon dioxide. I don’t want those guys following me around with a meter to see if I’m breathing too hard.” (Speech in Manchester, N.H., Nov. 18, 2011).

“We have made a mistake is what I believe, in saying that the EPA should regulate carbon emissions. I don’t think that was the intent of the original legislation, and I don’t think carbon is a pollutant in the sense of harming our bodies.” (Remarks at a Derry, NH town hall meeting, July 14, 2011)

President Obama and his administration orchestrated landmark new vehicle mileage standards that will double the average vehicle mileage to 54.5 by 2015, save consumers $1.7 trillion on gas, reduce oil imports by one-third and cut carbon pollution by the emissions equivalent of 85 million cars in one year.  The standards are backed by the auto industry.

Mitt Romney opposes new mileage standards.

PRESIDENT OBAMA
 “Thanks to a remarkable partnership between automakers, autoworkers, environmental advocates, and states, we also set in motion a new national policy to increase gas mileage and decrease carbon pollution for all new cars and trucks sold in this country, which is going to save us 1.8 billion barrels of oil.” (Remarks after meeting with energy industry CEOs, July 2, 2009)

“After decades of inaction, we raised fuel-economy standards, so that by the middle of the next decade, our cars will average nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what we get today.  That means you’ll be able to fill up your car every two weeks instead of every week … that will save the average family about $8,000 at the pump over the life of a car, which is real money.” (Speech at Ohio State University, March 22, 2012).

MITT ROMNEY
“Governor Romney opposes the extreme standards that President Obama has imposed, which will limit the choices available to American families,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in a statement to NBC News. (Romney campaign press statement, Aug. 28, 2012).

“Look, the reason these companies got in trouble was because the unions asked for too much; the management gave in too often and made some enormous mistakes of their own; the government put in place CAFE requirements that were disadvantageous for domestic manufacturers,” (Romney statement to press, Feb. 23, 2012).

President Obama has taken steps to ensure responsible oil and gas production on federal lands, and also has signed legislation that will protect national parks and other federal lands.

Mitt Romney wants to turn oversight for oil and gas production over to state regulators – even if it’s on federal lands. State regulators don’t have the funding or the personnel to oversee drilling on public lands, and regulations would vary from state to state.

PRESIDENT OBAMA
“Our lands have always provided great bounty — food and shelter for the first Americans, for settlers and pioneers; the raw materials that grew our industry; the energy that powers our economy. What these gifts require in return is our wise and responsible stewardship.”  (Remarks at the signing of the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, March 30, 2009)

“You had a whole bunch of oil companies who had leases on public lands that they weren’t using.  So what we said was, you can’t just sit on this for 10, 20, 30 years, decide when you want to drill, when you want to produce, when it’s most profitable for you.  These are public lands, so if you want to drill on public lands, you use it or you lose it.  And so what we did was take away those leases, and we are now re-letting them so that we can actually make a profit.” (Second presidential debate, Oct. 17, 2012)

MITT ROMNEY
“We’re going to have state regulators – not just regulate oil production, gas production on state lands and private lands but also on federal lands.” (Speech in Hobbs, N.M., Aug. 23, 2012).

“So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, I’m about to hand it over.’ But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.” (Romney in editorial board interview with Reno Gazette-Journal, Feb. 2, 2012).

It’s time-consuming to cut through the campaign spin and rhetoric…..but these are the candidates’ own words on where they stand. We think it’s easy to see  which candidate will deliver smart policies for the environment, sustainable energy and public health. 

 

We Need President Obama’s International Leadership on Energy Diplomacy Rather than Governor Romney’s “Pull up the Drawbridge” Approach

Last night’s Presidential debate on foreign policy should have included a question on climate change which is one of the greatest foreign policy challenges and security risks facing the United States and communities around the world. A question would have been especially timely , given the recent foreign policy speech where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid it on the line: “Energy cuts across the entirety of U.S. foreign policy….Transformation to cleaner energy is central to reducing the world’s carbon emissions and it is core to a strong 21st Century global economy.”

Let’s look at some of the key differences between the candidates when it comes to energy diplomacy and climate change. Governor Romney has a “pull up the drawbridge” approach to energy and ridicules climate change. President Obama has already built a track record of actions to promote clean energy and reduce our dependence on fuels that worsen climate change.

Secretary Clinton set up the issue in her speech, saying, “This is a moment of profound change.  Countries that once weren’t major consumers are. Countries that used to depend on others for their energy are now producers.  How will this shape world events?  Who will benefit, and who will not?  How will it affect the climate, people’s economic conditions, the strength of young democracies?”

She emphasized the need for American leadership, continuing, “All of this is unknown.  The answers to these questions are being written right now, and we intend to play a major role in writing them.  We have no choice.  We have to be involved everywhere in the world. The future security and prosperity of our nation and the rest of the world hangs in the balance.”

The Administration is not mincing words here. 

This contrasts sharply with Governor Romney, who has relentlessly pursued a single minded energy focus on North America that boils down to an ‘extract our own resources and pull up the drawbridge’ approach. And he pays lip service to clean energy, but does not have a plan to advance it and would cut important tax credits for renewables.

If we continue with our reliance on ever dirtier forms of fossil fuels, our North American landscapes as we know them will change, carbon pollution will edge us closer to irreversible climate change, and important opportunities to promote clean energy both in the U.S. and abroad will be lost.

Take the proposed massive tar sands oil pipeline, Keystone XL, which Governor Romney has said he would approve.  Not only would this be primarily an export oriented pipeline, greatly diminishing claimed energy security benefits, it is a dirty energy pipeline and not the path to U.S. economic leadership.  As Secretary Clinton reminds us, trillions of dollars will be invested in the next 25 years in generating and transmitting energy globally.  Now is the time for the U.S. to position ourselves as a leader and secure these clean energy opportunities.

The repercussions of climate change are real and are affecting our economic well-being at home and our security abroad. In a year of extreme weather, more and more Americans now understand the impacts of climate change in their communities.  A recent PEW poll found that 67% of the public understands that there is solid evidence the planet is heating up.  And more and more Americans can see how the kinds of changes climate change will bring can hit home – just ask the ranchers in Texas who had to sell their livestock because of the crippling drought.    

 Governor Romney’s response is to ridicule climate change, and his running mate is a long-time climate denier.  But climate change is no laughing matter to Americans and to our allies. 

There is another path.

President Obama has taken critical steps to reduce U.S. oil use through new clean car standards that will also save Americans money and to control carbon pollution by proposing carbon limits on new power plants.  As Secretary Clinton made clear, “Energy is essential to how we will power our economy and manage our environment in the 21st Century.  We therefore have an interest in promoting new technologies and new sources of energy – especially including renewables – to reduce pollution, diversify global energy supply, create jobs, and address the very real threat of climate change.”

That is a future worth looking forward to.