Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Re-Launch of Clean Skies News PLUS a Poem to Sen. Boxer



This morning, July 15th, marked the re-launch of the Clean Skies Network, an energy and environmental online news network. Promoters for the Clean Skies launch (including GU alumna Meg Martin) contacted us at “Renewable Energy Turns Me On” to participate in the exciting event.

The re-launch functioned as an open house for the news network. I was able to sit in on a few live tapings of interviews as well as sit in and watch in the control room. Moreover, the Clean Skies Network office has an aesthetically appealing modern design. Kimberly Collel, part of the American Clean Skies Foundation, said that they were going for a “gallery” design with an airy touch—the brilliant white walls and light, open feeling to the hallways certainly adds that touch. The gallery feel is finished off with glowing energy facts on the walls, reminiscent of exhibits you might see at the Smithsonian. Everything looks bright, new, and clean—how we would love our skies to look, right?

The first event was a live set of interviews with Miles Grant from Grist.org and the Honorable Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD).
Miles Grant was up first and spoke about what he hopes to see for the US climate legislation, especially as Copenhagen looms in the near future. Grant would love to see Barbara Boxer, Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman (and one of EcoAction’s favorite environmental advocates), get a bill through the Senate by the end of the year. However, the bill that we currently have needs work. Grant would like to see more permits auctioned off instead of handed out, for the current arrangement eliminates the revenue potential that originally existed from cap-and-trade. He also wanted a bill that would not only unite the country (in terms of working past regional biases) but also set a standard that is a model for other countries. (Right on, Grant!) One of Grant’s main focuses was the power of American innovation. If you told him thirty years ago that he could have a computer in his pocket in the form of a cell phone with more power than a room-sized computer, he wouldn’t have believed it, and thirty years from now, we will probably have a vast array of new technology in this sector. All we need to do is innovate! Go to work, America!

In the interlude between Grant and Bartlett, Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech (for which today marks the 30th anniversary) was discussed. In this speech, Carter addressed the many crises facing the country at that moment, including the dependence on foreign oil. Sadly, too many of his words ring true. Moreover, thinking of Carter and energy reminded me of the sad fact that Ronald Reagan eliminated the solar panels that Carter installed in the White House. (It becomes even more ironic, thus, that the EPA is in the Ronald Reagan Building, is it not?)

Rep. Bartlett voted against ACES and was very strong against it, using the typical Republican argument against regulation. He does not think that legislation is needed and believes that patriotism and education are the solution. The thrust of Bartlett’s argument was that the US was able to undertake massive efforts in conservation during World War II—Americans saved fuel and resources to provide for the war effort, and we also saw victory gardens spring up across the country. He thinks that such an emphasis on conservation, one rooted in individual action and patriotism, is the solution.

Rep. Bartlett stressed the need for education as a solution, but as we know, the facts are there. As Bill Clinton said at the Campus Progress Conference last year, we can’t bank our future on 5%, the small contingent of climate change deniers among the scientific community. If the facts are there and the moral imperative is there, then why have we not seen action yet? I really can’t see Rush Limbaugh having a garden in his backyard unless he somehow begins to believe in a crazy “liberal” conspiracy on our food system. The other problem in relying solely on individual action is the role of corporations. You can get people to carpool, to install CFLs, to turn off their lights, etc., but that is only one small step. Just think of the vast supply chains that exist in the manufacture and distribution of goods and the production of energy—let alone the energy used by office buildings.

Bartlett kept stressing that the public is educable, but are bad habits that easy to break? Can a patriotic impulse be believed by climate naysayers, or will they just reject it under the influence of the lobbies of our dead energy sources?

However, my favorite part of the Bartlett interview was when he complimented France and Europe as a whole. It is rare that you hear Europe complimented from the American right, but he spoke about the lack of SUVs and individual use pick-up trucks on the streets in France. There is no need for such cars; Europe has far outpaced us in fuel efficiency. Although I disagreed with some of Bartlett’s points, I was comforted to hear a Republican who does believe that action is needed (He’s not another Sarah Palin-type) and has made steps himself (Prius, solar panels, etc.) He puts his belief in individual citizen/consumer action to practice, and for that I respect him.

Next up was Tyson Slocum, the Energy Policy Director of Public Citizen. Slocum spoke about the problems that he saw in Waxman-Markey, notably the way that the bill gives in too much to utility companies. Slocum does not expect to see legislation enacted by Copenhagen, but he actually thinks that not having something rigidly in place could leave us more flexible in negotiations.

After Slocum came Denise Bode of AWEA (American Wind Energy Association). She spoke about the job potential from the wind industry. Wind energy would help to create jobs and do so especially in some of the areas that have been suffering high unemployment.

I also caught the interview of Joseph Romm, editor of Climate Progress. He stressed the transformative impact of the climate legislation but expressed a legitimate concern that much of the American public does not understand the scope of the problem that lies ahead of us. When asked what he would grade Obama on his work on the climate change issue, Romm said that he would give Obama a “B” for his environmental messaging. He would like to see the same effort that is being put behind health care put behind climate change as well. The health of our people, our environment, and our moral authority in the global community depends on this.

If you want to check out my tweets from the event, you can check me out on Twitter at JonathanCohn. Miles Grant and Joseph Romm can also be followed on Twitter as well.

For my final note, a short poem to Senator Boxer,

When it comes to this fall
And you start to roll the ball
For our act to save the air,
The land, and the sea,
And don’t forget posteri-ty,
Get ready for the political game
And be true to your name.

Win the Senate boxing match, Boxer!

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