Friday, September 11, 2015

Between Crackpot Republicans, Sold-Out Democrats And Lobbyists, Does Our Species Even Have A Chance?


This week Hart Research released polling on how millennials in battleground states feel about the climate-change debate. Short version: Bye-bye, Ron Johnson, Rob Portman and Pat Toomey. "[T]oday’s Millennials accept the established science around climate change and see it as a serious problem and a threat."
What is more, they are looking for a presidential candidate with a forward-looking vision to solving our country’s toughest economic problems--presenting clear potential for a candidate who has a bold plan around expanding clean, renewable energy to heighten their enthusiasm and capture their vote.

Our research indicates that large majorities of swing-state Millennials accept the science of climate change and recognize that it is a threat, with 78% saying it is a serious problem, including 92% of Democrats, 80% of independents, and a 59% majority of Republicans. Three-fifths (60%) of these young adults recognize that human activity is a major cause of the problem.

Millennials are looking for a bold solution to climate change and are solidly behind plans to expand clean energy in the United States. The overwhelming majority (73%) is favorable to setting a goal to power America with at least 50% clean energy by the year 2030 (including 52% who are very favorable). Furthermore, they see direct economic benefits to setting this goal. Sixty eight percent (68%) of Millennials believe that setting this clean energy goal would have a positive effect on America’s economy overall (only 10% think it would have a negative effect) and 68% say the same about jobs.

Creating jobs for the next century is a top priority for Millennials and offers a potential connection to expanding clean energy jobs. When presented with a list of various priorities a candidate for president might express, wants to make America a leader in creating jobs for the next century emerges as most important to these Millennials, with 82% saying this is very important to them personally (ratings of seven to 10 on a zero-to-10 scale). Millennials are also strongly supportive of proposals with an explicit connection to clean energy jobs. We found that expanding clean, renewable energy technology and creating more clean-energy jobs is an effective way to connect the problem of climate change with the more idealistic, optimistic goal of spurring the economy and creating good-paying jobs for the next generation of Americans. Expanding clean energy is seen as a multi- faceted solution: it will create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, while still addressing the problem of climate change. Participants throughout our focus groups also were able to envision a wide array of what “clean energy jobs” might look like-- from manual labor, to engineering and design, to sales and marketing-- indicating a belief that these jobs will benefit Americans across socioeconomic lines and be a driver of middle-class opportunity.

In fact, of several climate-related messages we tested, the idea that combating climate change will create the jobs of the future, spur innovation and investments in clean energy, and put young people to work in good-paying jobs tested among the top-tier, with two-thirds (66%) of Millennials in battleground states saying this was a strong reason (ratings of seven to 10 on a zero-to-10 scale) why climate should be an important issue in the upcoming presidential election. This includes large majorities of Democrats (79%) and independents (61%), as well as more than half (52%) of Republicans-- the only climate message to surpass the 50% threshold among the latter group. Even battleground Millennials who express only muted enthusiasm about the 2016 election respond very positively to this message: 59% of the least enthusiastic group say it is very important to them, as do 63% of those who are only fairly likely to vote next year-- the top-testing climate message for both of these groups.

...It is clear from our research not only that Millennials accept the science of climate change, but that a candidate who does not is at a disadvantage. We heard throughout our conversations with swing-state Millennials that climate denial is associated with stubborn or backward-looking thinking. And in our survey, 70% of Millennials say they would have major concerns (45% very major concerns) about a Republican candidate who disagrees with NASA, the US Military, and 97% of climate scientists that human activity is responsible for climate change, including 69% of independents and half (50%) of self-identified Republicans.

The Koch brothers, specifically, are viewed by Millennials in a very unfavorable light, especially when attached to a short identifier explaining who they are. At the outset, Millennials view the Koch brothers negatively by 19 points (8% positive, 27% negative), and a 55% majority know who they are. And after reading a description of a hypothetical candidate who is backed by the Koch brothers, the big oil billionaires who have a long record of environmental violations, who, along with their network of wealthy conservatives, have pledged to spend almost a billion dollars on the presidential election, 72% of Millennials (including 74% of independents) say they would have major concerns about supporting that candidate, with 47% saying they would have very major concerns. What is more, 74% of Millennials would have major concerns about a candidate who has close ties to the oil industry and supports tax breaks for oil companies, including more than half (52%) of Republicans-- reflecting the broader distaste Millennials have for the industry.

Expanding clean energy is extremely popular among Millennials who are already active on energy and environmental issues, and they can thus can be used to serve as “boots on the ground” to stoke engagement among their age group. Among Millennials who demonstrated an interest in energy and the environment via their Facebook activity, a whopping 84% say that expanding renewables and creating clean-energy jobs is an extremely important priority for them (ratings of nine to 10 on a zero-to-10 scale)-- by far the top-testing issue among this group-- along with 71% of those respondents who have already interacted with NextGen Climate by pledging to become “climate action voters.” And when presented with a list of various issue positions a candidate might take and asked which two or three would be most important when casting their ballot, both groups of “activists” are most likely to choose expanding renewable energy-- edging out not only unrelated issues such as student debt and equal pay, but also reducing carbon pollution, having a strong environmental record, and making corporate polluters pay.
What got me going on this was some bad news from the California legislature, where Democrats are ostensibly in charge, but where lobbyists with fat wallets exercise huge clout-- clout they are using to gut the historic legislation progressives have been working on to combat climate change. SB350, which aimed for a 50% reduction in petroleum use by 2030 and already passed the state Senate, fell victim to lobbyists and the bribe-hungry legislators they control.
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who authored the legislation, said Wednesday that a major lobbying campaign by the oil industry was largely to blame for the doubt that had emerged over the bill. “The fact that, despite overwhelming scientific opinion and statewide public support, we still weren’t able to overcome the silly-season scare tactics of an outside industry which has repeatedly opposed environmental progress and energy innovation-- means that there’s a temporary disconnect in our politics which needs to be overcome,” de León said.

The oil industry has poured money into a campaign against SB 350, calling the legislation the “California Gas Restriction Act of 2015″ and warning that it could lead to bans on SUVs.

SB 350 is “an attempt to essentially put oil companies out of business,” Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, said in August.

De León has maintained that none of the oil industry’s claims are true. Still, SB 350 had come up against a wall of moderate Democrats in recent weeks. In late August, about 20 Assembly Democrats met with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, saying they were worried that SB 350 isn’t clear enough on how it will affect motorists. These Democratic holdouts could have meant the end for the bill during this legislative session.

Taking out the petroleum measure was meant to be a concession to these moderate Democrats-- and it seems to have worked, at least on one. Henry T. Perea, a moderate Democrat who had led the opposition to the petroleum measure, told the New York Times that he would now support SB 350.

“S.B. 350 will set California apart as a leader in climate change policy and will go a long way in reducing emissions in areas like the Central Valley that suffer from some of the worst air quality in the nation,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown also said Wednesday that he wouldn’t let the oil industry get in the way of his efforts to reduce greenhouse gases in California.

“Oil has won the skirmish, but they’ve lost the bigger battle,” he said. “Because I am more determined than ever to make our regulatory regime work for the people of California: cleaning up the air, reducing the petroleum and creating the green jobs that are going to put hundreds of thousands of people to work over the coming decades.”

SB 350 is expected to come to a vote before the end of the week. The bill is part of a larger climate package of 12 bills, some of which have already been voted on. SB 185, which prompted the state’s public employee investment funds to divest from coal, passed the Assembly last week, and is expected to be signed by the governor. Another bill, SB 32, which would have required the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, failed in the Assembly this week, though it may come up for another vote.
Meanwhile, reporter Chris Mooney, writing for the Washington Post, explained a new report from the Solar Energy Industries Association which shows American families and businesses aren't waiting for easily corrupted elected officials to get on the right path. The industry is hitting new growth levels this year.
Solar photovoltaic installations now exceed 20 gigawatts in capacity and could surpass an unprecedented 7 gigawatts this year alone across all segments. A gigawatt is equivalent to 1 billion watts and can power some 164,000 homes.
The second quarter of this year witnessed a new record-- a 70% year-over-year growth rate-- for residential solar installations. Last week when Obama was in Las Vegas to meet with the solar energy industry, he termed it "an age-old debate in America. It's a debate between the folks who say 'no, we can't,' and the folks who say, 'yes, we can.' "
The new GTM Research and Solar Energy Industries Association report suggests the "yes, we can" crowd is winning, finding that out of all new electricity installations in the U.S. in the first six months of this year, 40 percent were solar.

...U.S. solar photovoltaic is at 20 gigawatts of installed capacity now, and may add another 18 gigawatts by the end of next year. Overall, the growth boom is being fueled by a combination of declining costs, low interest rates, and a federal solar investment tax credit, the report suggests.

For comparison, according to the Department of Energy, the wind industry in the U.S. recently reached 66 gigawatts of installed capacity, with 13 more gigawatts expected to come online by the end of 2016. Overall, the U.S. had over 1000 gigawatts of electricity capacity installed as of the year 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So while still a minority of all electricity generation, wind and solar are, nonetheless, growing more and more significant on a national scale.

Still, there are storms ahead. The GTM Research and SEIA report points out that after 2016, if the solar investment tax credit is allowed to decline, the industry will face considerable uncertainty from 2017 to 2019 that could hampered growth. The situation is expected to then change again after 2020, as a key incentive program that’s part of the federal Clean Power Plan goes into effect, which will strongly favor solar and wind.
"If the solar investment tax credit is allowed to decline" means: if Republicans and Democratic sellouts run Congress, we're in big trouble. Which is all the more reason to elect progressives like the men and women Blue America has endorsed for Congress. All of our candidates are committed to seriously combatting global warming and fighting for rational environmental laws. No one gets on that list unless they are. Just yesterday our candidate in IL-08, just west of Chicago, state Senator Mike Noland, was rated a 100% Environmental Champion by the Illinois Environmental Council, one of only 16 state senators with that score. He's running against a crass corporate shill who will say anything and vote for whoever hands him the biggest... contribution.

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At 3:40 PM, Blogger janet said...

It hurts (as an old) to know we should have and could have started this way back in the 70's. Dog damn Ronald Raygun.

At 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, Janet, if we had gone in the direction Jimmy Carter was pushing us, we be in good shape now. He was pretty much the last President to talk to the American people as if we were adults. I guess we aren't.

At 12:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carter also challenged the American people to live up to their "personal responsibility" to future generations (the ultimate in "family values") in regards learning to not waste energy. For this he was called "weak."

The irony/hypocrisy was overwhelming and the destruction of language was well under way.

John Puma


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