Running Clean Draws Support from Swing Voters

With 48 hours to go before the midterm elections, you’re probably a bit tired of seeing competing poll results. Head-to-head matchups between candidates have varied this entire election cycle, but one item we’ve been tracking has remained consistent—voters want action on climate change.

In February, the NRDC Action Fund released our first polling of the 2014 cycle. It was conducted in 11 battleground states and showed that voters across the political spectrum were ready for the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce dangerous carbon pollution. Now, eight months later, we released another poll, this time in five swing states that produced nearly the exact same results.

The poll found that:

  • Climate and energy are playing a role in the public discourse in these states’ senate races: nearly 40 percent of voters have heard about candidate positions on climate change, and majorities have heard their views on energy.
  • Republican candidates’ extreme positions are costing them support among key blocs of swing voters. By margins of 20 to 22 percentage points, independents, women and younger voters describe themselves as less likely to vote for their Republican candidate after learning of his or her views on energy, the environment and climate change.
  • Pro-climate positions are highly popular with voters. Sixty-eight percent of voters feel more favorably toward candidates who support clean energy and 54 percent have a more favorable impression of candidates who believe the government should take action on climate change.

Consistency is key. It clearly shows that even after polluters have spent millions of dollars to defeat candidates who are running clean, they have been unable to change voter’s attitudes.

No matter who comes out victorious on election night, all the winners would be wise to remember that voters want those heading to Congress to put in place policies that ensure cleaner air and less carbon pollution. It’s also a good reminder for all the would-be presidential candidates, that voters will not elect a climate denier to the White House in 2016.

A presentation of the results is available here: http://bit.ly/100D1ce

 

Climate Change Emerging as Hot Topic in Key Senate Races

The issue of climate change has emerged in nearly every Senate race this election season. Candidates are discussing it, debate moderators are asking about it, and journalists are covering it. Why? Because the vast majority of voters say they are concerned about climate change and want leaders to address it.

That’s good news for lawmakers like Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) and Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) who support expanding clean energy and other solutions to reduce global warming pollution.

But it is daunting for the entire slate of Republican candidates who deny the existence of climate change or feign ignorance about climate science. Their polluter friends and wealthy donors don’t want America to tackle this challenge.

The dirty deniers may have money in their coffers. But the climate champions have people on their side. This reality is giving rise to a new maxim: If a lot of people vote, the Koch brothers lose—and Americans win cleaner air and a more stable climate.

Political operatives on both sides have grasped what this means for voter turnout.

In Alaska, for instance, Democratic Party volunteers are boarding bush planes and crossing mountain ranges to encourage more people to vote for Senator Mark Begich. Their outreach is part of a broader Democratic push to win 10 battleground states through one of the most concerted get-out-the-vote efforts on record.

Tea Party supporters, meanwhile, are taking a decidedly different approach.

In North Carolina, the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity has been caught distributing hundreds of thousands of voter registration forms that were invalid and erroneous and would actually get in the way of people casting a ballot.

The group has been tied to similar voter suppression efforts in the past few years in Wisconsin, Virginia, and West Virginia. As the New Republic points out, these efforts go hand-in-hand with new voter identification laws that make it even harder for people to cast a ballot in several states.

Americans for Prosperity is entitled to oppose climate action. After all, disagreeing about how to tackle major issues is part of the democratic process. But interfering with citizens’ ability to vote is not. If the Tea Party want to win, they have to mobilize more people to support their candidates.

That isn’t always easy for them, as the 2012 election demonstrated. Polluters and their allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect pro-polluter, anti-safeguard candidates, yet nearly all their candidates lost.

One of Karl Rove’s Super PACs spent almost $105 million to support or defeat various candidates but was successful in less than 2 percent of its races. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, known for its climate denial and fossil-fuel friendly policies, spent more than $32 million in campaigns but achieved less than 7 percent of its desired outcomes.

Meanwhile, voters favored clean energy and climate champions up and down the ticket. Something similar could happen this year. If people who care about climate change show up—the majority of voters—than the candidates who want to build a safer, more sustainable future will win.

 

 

Five Ways the New Limits on Carbon Pollution Will Influence the Midterms

The Obama Administration just did the most important thing it could to confront climate change right now: it set limits on carbon pollution coming from power plants. These plants kick out 40 percent of all carbon pollution in the US, yet they get a free pass to foul our atmosphere and destabilize the climate. The Environmental Protection Agency is finally holding these plants accountable.

The new carbon limits will help protect our health, generate clean energy jobs, and shield communities from extreme weather and other hazards of climate change.

They will also give a boost to climate champions running for election this fall. Good climate policy means good politics, and candidates who support cleaning up carbon pollution will benefit at the polls. Here is why.

1. Voters Favor Government Action to Cut Carbon Pollution

President Obama was emboldened to take strong climate action because the American people want it. Poll after poll has confirmed their support, even in red and purple states. In March, the NRDC Action Fund asked Harstad Strategic Research to survey voters in the closest Senate races in the country, including Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas. The results were resounding: more than two-thirds of voters in 11 battleground states say the EPA should limit carbon pollution from power plants. That includes 53 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of independents and 87 percent of Democrats.

2. Climate Voters Could Make the Difference in Narrow Senate Races iStock_13548366-Vote badge

Concern about climate change is growing among the general public, but it is even stronger among three significant voting blocs: women, Latinos, and young people. Eight in 10 Latinos, for instance, want President Obama to curb carbon pollution, according to a January poll conducted by Latino Decisions for NRDC. People who care about climate change have proven to be dedicated volunteers (in 2008) and able to sweep climate champions into office (2012). Their enthusiasm could be pivotal in 2014, especially when so many Senate incumbents are running in toss-up races.

3. The Carbon Rules Tap into Reality that All Politics Are Local

The EPA has taken a state-by-state approach to reducing carbon pollution. Every state has its own reduction target and a great deal of flexibility in how to reach it. This keeps the focus squarely on the local level. Candidates can engage voters in a conversation about what climate change is doing to towns and cities, and how low-carbon solutions like energy efficiency and renewable power will benefit their state. Representative Gary Peters, for instance, has challenged his opponent Terri Lynn Land for failing to recognize how climate change is threatening the Great Lakes. He could also point to the fact that Michigan’s energy efficiency measures—the cheapest way for states to meet carbon reduction targets—have saved people a net $800 million on electricity bills in the past few years.

4. Carbon Limits Will Create Jobs and Save People Money

Local carbon reduction translates into local job creation. NRDC asked ICF International, an independent firm that analyzes electricity markets for industry and government, to analyze the economic impact of carbon limits. Their study found that reducing carbon pollution by 25 percent could save Americans $37.4 billion on their electric bills in 2020. It would also create more than 274,000 jobs. Some candidates may claim carbon limits will spell doom for the economy, but even the Chamber of Commerce failed to produce numbers to back them up—the chamber’s recent attempt didn’t even account for jobs that will be created in wind and solar power and energy efficiency efforts.

5. GOP Is Walking Back It’s Rhetoric of Denial

Republican lawmakers may finally have gotten the memo about voter support for climate action. In the past month, several have passed up the opportunity to reject climate change outright. House Majority Leader John Boehner said last week, “I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” And when Governor Rick Scott was asked if human activity is causing climate change he said, “I’m not a scientist.” This may be a dodge, but it is not denial. It is a step toward recognizing that if candidates want to reach beyond the Tea Party base, they can’t bet against the majority of voters who care about climate change. That is why a climate denier won’t be able to win the White House in 2016.

 

On Election Night, Senate Races to Watch

As you gather your election night supplies (popcorn for watching, champagne for celebrating or something stronger to drown your sorrows) be sure you keep handy this primer on important Senate races. The outcomes in these contests could determine whether the Senate is led by a Clean Air Hero or a Dirty Air Villain for the next two years.

New Mexico

Former Rep. Heather Wilson and current Rep. Martin Heinrich are vying for an open Senate seat to represent The Land of Enchantment. A broad coalition of environmental groups have pledged their support for Heinrich because he has voted hundreds of times to protect the environment, to stand up for bedrock environmental laws and to improve public health. In contrast, in the House, Wilson voted four times to shield the makers of a toxic fuel additives from being held accountable for contaminating drinking water all around New Mexico. Wilson is still stuck in her polluter-funded past, supporting projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and more “drill, baby, drill” energy policy and doubting the science on man-made climate change.

Massachusetts

In the Bay State, incumbent Senator Scott Brown is being challenged by Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. While Brown is running as a moderate Republican, he chose to side with polluters in voting for an extreme proposal that would have prevented EPA from reducing carbon pollution (thankfully, it failed). He also supported H.R. 1, the Senate budget bill, which was called “the worst anti-environmental bill EVER” for its crippling cuts to DOE’s clean energy programs and the EPA along with dozens of harmful environmental riders (again, thankfully, it failed). Warren’s campaign platform proclaims a strong commitment to public health and environmental protection. Warren has promised to end subsidies for Big Oil and to invest in clean energy. She isn’t afraid to talk about the promise of green jobs or the threat of climate change.

Wisconsin

In Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Former Governor Tommy Thompson are competing for an open Senate seat. On both rhetoric and record, Baldwin can only be considered one of the most pro-environment Members of Congress. She boasts a 97% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, she is one of our Clean Air Heroes, and she has been a leader on the need to address climate change. While Thompson once said that the U.S. “must aggressively take on global warming,” times seem to have changed and his new campaign website never mentions climate change or any of its synonyms. Instead, it focuses on continuing our dependence on dirty energy by building the Keystone XL pipeline, opening new areas to oil and gas drilling and expanding “fracking” for natural gas.

Virginia

Two former governors, Tim Kaine and George Allen, are competing for an open senate seat in Virginia. On energy, the records are clear. Allen has taken over half a million dollars in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry and consistently voted against the environment and to protect tax breaks and loopholes that line Big Oil’s pockets. What’s Kaine’s record? As Governor, he worked for land conservation, river cleanup, clean air, public transportation and energy efficiency. Fossil fuel interests, however, aren’t content to sit this one out and let the records speak for themselves. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has already spent more than six million dollars opposing Kaine on top of millions being spent by other pro-polluter groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the curiously named American Commitment (commitment to what, asthma?)

Ohio

In Ohio, incumbent Sherrod Brown is running against challenger Josh Mandel. Outside groups have already spent $9.7 million opposing Brown. Much of this shadow spending (in ads like this, this and this) attacks Brown for his votes on clean energy and protecting public health. After all, he’s a Clean Air Hero, he understands “the very real danger of climate change, which threatens our nation’s economic, environmental, and energy security,” and he’s championed a bill to end $15 to $20 billion in subsidies to Big Oil. In contrast, Mandel is a climate denier who has said he thinks the scientific research on the matter “is inconclusive and riddled with fraud.” He also thinks rules to reduce mercury from coal-fired power plants are “unnecessary” and wants to put a moratorium on any new protections.

Now you are ready. Grab your concessions and settle in for a long election night of watching the returns roll in and finding out whether or not clean energy and clean air champions win the day.

Who’s Cleaner in the Massachusetts Senate Race?

If you are feeling overwhelmed by constant coverage of the Presidential race and the back and forth between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, this is the post for you. In what we hope will be the first in a series, we are highlighting one of the downballot races that will matter when it comes to clean energy and the health of our families. First up is the Massachusetts Senate race where incumbent Senator Scott Brown is being challenged by Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. When it comes to public health, climate change and clean energy, there’s some distance between the two.

While Brown is running as a moderate Republican, he chose to side with polluters in voting for an extreme proposal that would have prevented EPA from reducing carbon pollution (thankfully, it failed). He shouldn’t have been shocked when concerned families spoke out against his pro-polluter policies. The League of Women Voters ran an ad in his home state taking him to task for the vote, and linking climate change with increased asthma in vulnerable kids.

 

How did Brown react to getting called out? He claimed that his vote had nothing to do with children or health despite plenty of science to the contrary.

Another of Brown’s environmental offenses? He supported H.R. 1, the Senate budget bill, which was called “the worst anti-environmental bill EVER” for its crippling cuts to DOE’s clean energy programs and the EPA along with dozens of harmful environmental riders (again, thankfully, it failed).

Now, to be fair, Brown’s not the worst of our 100 Senators when it comes to clean air and clean energy. He didn’t make our list of Dirty Air Villains over at WhoVotesDirty.com. In fact, he only voted for one of the four dirty air votes we examined there. He deserves credit for voting against the radicals in his party and against polluters in opposing efforts to weaken clean air standards for boilers, and to weaken rules to cut soot and mercury pollution from power plants.

As someone who has never held elective office, we can’t compare Warren’s record with Brown’s. However, we can look to her campaign platform and detect a strong commitment to public health and environmental protection. Warren has promised to end subsidies for Big Oil and to invest in clean energy. She isn’t afraid to talk about the promise of green jobs or the threat of climate change.

Given Brown’s mixed record, the Massachusetts Senate race may not offer the starkest contrast in this election. However, it is still regarded as one of the most important contests in the country. The question of whether the Senate will be led by a Dirty Air villain like Mitch McConnell or a Clean Air hero like Harry Reid hangs in the balance.

Stay tuned to hear more about other important races.