Climate Change: On the Frontlines at the EIB

Robby Rodriguez

Climate control is too important to leave in the hands of the U.S. Congress…or in the hands of the highly-paid lobbyists who speak for the energy companies and huge corporations.

That’s why it’s so important now for states to take the lead – and New Mexico has emerged as one of the boldest, says social justice activist Robby Rodriguez in a new essay just published in High Country News.

Rodriguez, who is executive director of the Albuquerque-based SouthWest Organizing Project, says New Mexicans should be proud that SWOP, New Energy Economy and more than a dozen groups are currently petitioning to make New Mexico a leader in the nation when it comes to regulating greenhouse gases.

The groups are asking the state’s Environmental Protection Board to place a science-based cap on the amount on global warming emissions in the state to 25 percent below 1990 levels. This is the minimum action recommended by the global scientific community to mitigate the impact of global change.  If approved, New Mexico’s plan could be used as a national model for other states.

Rodriguez writes that he was moved when he heard faith leaders, doctors, scientists, advocates, renewable energy producers and more testify at a March 1 public hearing on the petition.

From the HCN piece:

Those who spoke in favor of the petition in front of the EIB represented lifelong residents of the Four Corners area in northwestern New Mexico—one of the most heavily polluted areas in the country–who spoke of noxious fumes and the devastating impacts of the oil, gas and coal industries on their health, land and animals.  Young people talked about their future.  A pregnant mother talked about her soon-to-be-born son.  Faith leaders, renewable energy producers, advocacy organizations, doctors, scientists and local government officials all came forward in favor of capping greenhouse emissions.  The room was packed—standing room only!

It was beautiful.

Then  Rodriguez spoke of the parade of corporate CEOs, lobbyists and even some tea partiers, all of whom spoke against the petition.

From the HCN essay:

And then came the parade of polluters.  PNM, the major electric utility company in New Mexico led the way as grand marshal.  They were followed by suits representing the energy, mining, oil, gas, coal, agribusiness and other manufacturing industries, and of course, their shareholders.  Also in the parade were the various chambers of commerce and of course the new kids on the block, the ‘teabaggers.’ They cited all the usual “if we do this the sky will fall” arguments.  They argued the matter should be decided by our state legislature or by the congress at the national level or at the international level—as though the long political process necessary to overcome the massive propaganda campaigns they wage is time we can afford. .  We’ve heard it all before.

It got ugly.

And that was just the beginning. The EIB will continue to hold hearings throughout the summer and is scheduled to rule on the petition sometime in the fall.

As this battle plays out, we at Clearly New Mexico hope New Mexico continues to stand firm on the front lines of the battle over climate control.

A Sterling Example

I had some harsh words last week for some members of the local business community who’ve been resisting any and all efforts to regulate the oil and gas industry in the name of climate control.

Then I read this, taken from a story in the Dec. 4 edition of the New Mexico Business Weekly (subscription required):

Businesses Unite on Behalf of Climate Change Legislation

A broad alliance of business associations representing about 1,400 local firms is pushing New Mexico’s senators to include tougher regulations in emerging climate change legislation.

The coalition will hand deliver a letter this month to New Mexico’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, urging them to seek faster emissions reductions and more industry responsibility for the cost of regulations than what is outlined in the current bill under debate in the Senate.

Most coalition participants represent businesses directly linked to clean energy development, such as the New Mexico Solar Energy Association. But the group also includes associations with a variety of businesses that embrace carbon reduction and see economic opportunities in a green economy, such as the Santa Fe Alliance, which represents 500 locally owned businesses and nonprofits, and the 620-member Santa Fe Area Home Builders Assn.

Mark Giorgetti of AmEnergy LLC, which has a leading role in the emerging coalition, said participants want to “embolden” New Mexico’s senators to act aggressively in the climate change debate.

This hearty endorsement proves that being in business in New Mexico doesn’t have to equal being hostile to tougher regulations regarding climate control.

Kudos to this diverse new alliance of businesses – and here’s hoping the group has some sway with New Mexico’s senators!

Dinosaurs Agree: The Earth Loves CO2!

If some carbon dioxide is good for the Earth, then a whole lot should be great, right?

A new organization called CO2 is Green would have you believe so. The group recently placed large ads in the Santa Fe New Mexican and other local newspapers arguing that “thousands of experiments have shown that more CO2 is beneficial to plants and ecosystems.”

Leighton Steward, the geologist and businessman who heads the group of oil and gas producers and others, says, “I’m simply saying that the science doesn’t back up that CO2 has any significant impact on climate change. The planet would be much better off if we let the CO2 levels rise.”

Steward’s claims are important because they directly contradict widely-acknowledged scientific assertions that a rise in human-caused carbon emissions – i.e., pollution from coal-fired power plants and vehicles – causes global warming that is harmful to the Earth.

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A Surprising Position on Climate Change

owlIn the midst of an extended news cycle dominated by the health care debate, one player in the climate discussion has suddenly taken an unlikely and assertive view on climate change.

Yesterday, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG & E), one of the largest utility companies in California, left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce citing the Chamber’s “extreme position” on climate change as its reason for leaving.

Most utility companies do not tend to emphasize the impacts of climate change since their activities have been identified as one of the main sources of greenhouse emissions.  Not only that, but PG & E hasn’t been known as the most environmentally friendly company in the past (i.e. inspiration for the movie Erin Brockovich.

In fact, San Franciscans have seen fit to challenge PG & E’s claims of being eco-friendly, denouncing its practices as little more than greenwashing.

So you would only expect PG & E to fall right in line with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s extreme position on climate change. Instead, Pacific Gas and Electric elected to leave the Chamber. Now Nike has followed suit, releasing a statement expressing strong disagreement with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s position on climate change.

A utility company speaking out against big business in the defense of climate change — just when you didn’t think things get couldn’t any more bizarre in the political world, something like this happens.  But this is a strong indicator that some hard-nosed, profit-maximizing corporate heads really get it.  Preserving the earth is actually good for business.  Let’s hope the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can one day put aside its blind attachment to ideology  and see the light.

Planning Albuquerque’s Climate Future

The City of Albuquerque recently released a draft of its Climate Action Plan. This plan was put together by the Climate Action Task Force to help design strategies for 80% greenhouse gas reductions in Albuquerque by 2050.

From the City of ABQ website:

The Climate Action Task Force are volunteers made up of environmentalists, engineers, scientists, business professionals, political action groups, government staff, and a wide range of expertise and opinions hopefully able to represent a cross section of the Albuquerque Demographics.

Throughout the month of August, town halls were held to engage the public about the Climate Action plan. If you weren’t able to attend one of the meet-ups, you can still give feedback here.

I attended one of these town halls last week at UNM. The task force has come up with eight strategies to recommend to the city council. Representatives from all eight working groups were there to present their recommendations for public comment.

Carrie McChesney was one of the first to speak at the Town Hall. She headed up the Business, Industry, and Carbon Offsets working group. The group’s main goal is to “offer a suite of strategies designed to help business and industry understand, identify and act upon opportunities inherent in greenhouse gas reductions.”

This seems like a great idea since state and federal carbon offset mandates are currently emerging. Because our city is responsive to this development, we can help businesses prepare for compliance with these offsets, and make them aware of the best practices being demonstrated across the nation.

Working with local businesses and industry via these best practices will help us greatly reduce our city’s emissions as well as producing money savings for businesses in the process. This can boost our local economy. Businesses can reinvest these savings. Demand will be generated for more local jobs in the fields of building retrofits and energy audits.

Here’s Carrie at one of the Climate Action town halls last week talking about the strategies developed by the Business, Industry, and Carbon Offsets working group.

City of ABQ Climate Planning
Meeting-Business, Industry, C Offsets
from Juan Reynosa on Vimeo.

Dirty Coal Astroturfing

MrCleanCoalMany of you might have heard about the ridiculous, yet not surprising, scandal involving a coal industry PR group named Bonner and Associates.  Last week they sent lawmakers in DC letters that were in support of the coal industry and in opposition to the House climate bill.

The problem was that that the letters were forged and sent out on what appeared to be the stationary of a number of minority organizations, including Creciendo Juntos and the NAACP.

The organization behind all of this is the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), which hired Bonner and Associates to do their PR dirty work of sending out those letters.

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No Wonder They’re Pushing Nuclear

It is a constant source of wonderment to me why so many energy proponents and politicians have chosen to highlight nuclear as the energy source answer to our climate change (as well as rising costs in energy production) woes.

Why would they argue for more nuclear reactors to be built when the United States is already dealing with the big problem of storing/depositing the high amount of radioactive waste we already have produced?

Now the story comes out about the proposed costs to build two new reactors in Ontario.  Looks like  price isn’t going to serve as a convincing argument for nuclear power much longer either.  Why?  The price quoted last week ($23 billion dollars to be exact) by the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd to the Ontario provincial government was three times higher than what had been expected.

Will the Ontario  government start considering the use of solar power now, inasmuch as the price quoted for nuclear power averages out to be about $3,500 more per kilowatt of energy produced when compared to solar prices?

The Accidental Deliberations blog sums it up rather well:

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More Corporate Welfare For Polluters?

As the Waxman-Markey climate bill continues to slowly crawl to an upcoming vote,  more and more debate emerges.  This time it’s Blue Dog Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota taking the reins for energy producers who already emit too many noxious emissions into our environment.  Congressman Peterson represents rural electric producers (mainly ones who burn coal and ethanol to produce electricity) and claims this bill leaves them behind.

Congressman Peterson is protecting the exact companies (i.e. coal and ethanol plants) that this bill is trying to force to make more cleaner and more efficient.  Of course he shouldn’t expect good favor from this bill (i.e. tons of money).  Yet, by some twisted logic, that’s exactly what he’s asking for.

Peterson wants electric producers who burn coal and ethanol (see how the San Juan Generating plant is holding up in NM with their emissions production) to get back 100% of the allowances they pay for excess emissions.

To me this is like taking away your kid’s allowance because he’s bad, then giving it right back to him because he needs the money to be good.

Seeing how the fine paid by San Juan (which is owned by PNM) was the largest in state history, it is mind boggling to think how much money would be given away via 100% allowances nationwide.

Secondly, Peterson argues that many of the low-income people in his Farm Belt region would be affected more than others in the nation.  While there may be a small increase in his constituents’ rates (mostly a result of electric generators in this area not being clean or efficient enough and thus they have to spend large amounts of money to get their plants in order) it will not add up to the thousands of dollars that these dirty energy representatives claim it will.

The Congressional Budget Office released a report last Friday that estimates that the total costs passed on to households from the Waxman-Markey bill will be a whopping $175 a year.  And, the report says, the low-income consumers that Peterson talks about won’t have their rates raised – instead, they’ll actually get back about $40 a year.

So once again, I have to ask the question:

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