Tag Archives: cleanenergy

Five Reasons Clean Energy Trumps Tea Party Slogans

Sometimes I think America is the proverbial child-star-gone-bad of nations: we have a crippling addiction, but we still won't go to rehab.

We are hooked on burning dirty fossil fuels like cavemen, and no matter how many times we hit rock bottom — deadly coal mining accidents, the uncontrolled oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and American soldiers risking their lives overseas — we won't embrace the safer, smarter, cleaner path of renewable energy.

Change shouldn't be this hard.

That is the message behind a new ad campaign launched by NRDC's Action Fund this week. The ad urges senators from both sides of the aisle to put America back in control of our energy future.

Americans want change: a recent poll found that seven in ten Americans think clean energy legislation must be fast-tracked in the wake of the catastrophic Gulf oil spill.

Yet our elected officials haven't delivered the clean energy that voters want. Too many lawmakers fear that if they vote for a clean energy future, they will fall prey to populist mood swings come November. But they are mistaken and here is why:

1. Support for clean energy and climate action is not a flash in the pan. President Obama made clean energy one of the three planks of his platform. His energy policies have been vetted, reviewed and fleshed out through the longest presidential campaign in history and into his administration.

And all the while, clean energy has remained popular with American voters. So much so that Tea Party candidates now talk about it themselves. Most of their claims are bogus, but it is revealing that they haven't left clean energy on the cutting room floor.

2. Tea Party candidates are like the streaker at a football game. They get a lot of attention for their bold, rebellious positions, but after you get a closer look, you want to turn your head away. Their catchphrases simply don't hold up to scrutiny, never mind a 24-hour news cycle.

Rand Paul sounded good in his 30-second campaign spots, for instance, but just days after he won the primary, he started saying business owners should be allowed to kick people of color out of their establishments. After seeing Paul on The Rachel Maddow Show or Sarah Palin being interviewed by Katie Couric, viewers start to realize that Tea Party slogans don't always make for sound governing policy.

3. The Tea Party is today's rebranding of conservative Republican voters. It baffles me that people talk about the Tea Party as if it were something new, when in fact it is just the latest packaging of the radical right.
We have seen this before and we know how it ends: people who identify with the radical group of the day are people who already vote and who will continue to vote for the most conservative candidate. This is not a new batch of voters up for grabs, and therefore, there is no point in pandering to them.

4. Angry voters may scream the loudest, but that doesn't make them powerful. It is human nature to pay attention to the loudest person in the room, but that doesn't mean you have to like them. The official Tea Party page on Facebook has only 200,000 fans. The “Can this poodle wearing a tinfoil hat get more fans than Glenn Beck” Facebook page has 280,453 fans.

Right now, every politico is trying to figure out how to win in November, and some are getting distracted by the noise of the radical right. The truth is that these people have been angry for a long time and they will be angry long after lawmakers leave Congress. It is how they live their lives. And while they have extra visibility right now, it looks like most elections will be decided on issues particular to each state, not Tea Party anger.

5. People will vote for lawmakers who create jobs, growth and security. In the end, winning elections and governing the nation is about making people's lives better. Passing clean energy and climate legislation will do that. It could generate nearly 2 million jobs, put America at the forefront of the global clean energy marketplace, strengthen national security and reduce dangerous pollution.

Now is not the time to be bullied. It is the time for lawmakers to stand up and put America on a path to a cleaner, better future. This kind of change isn't hard at all.

Questions about Measure H : How Will Proposition H Give the Board of Supervisors a Blank Check ?

Disclaimer: I do some work for the No on H campaign. But my views on the issue were decided before I took the job.

Questions about Measure H : How Will Proposition H Give the Board of Supervisors a Blank Check With No Voter Approval First?  

Measure H calls itself a “Clean Energy Act,” but when you read the actual language of the measure itself, you find the act raises more questions than it answers. That’s why it’s time to ask proponents why there are so many loopholes in Measure H. Case in point – the provision giving the Board of Supervisors the right to issue revenue bonds in any amount necessary to acquire “public utilities.”

Measure H proponents continue to insist the measure is about “clean energy” and possibly the public ownership of electric utilities by the city. However, if you read the language in the measure itself, it’s very clear that the Board of Supervisors will have the authority to issue revenue bonds to take over any entity determined to be a “utility” and in the public interest.

This isn’t a matter of campaign rhetoric – it’s a fact established in Section 9.107 of Measure H itself, which states that the Board of Supervisors will be able to issue revenue bonds without a public vote to “finance or refinance the acquisition construction, installation equipping improvement or rehabilitation of equipment or facilities for renewable energy and energy conversation or other utility facilities pursuant to Section 16.101 of this Charter.”

That last part is critical and it is why it is time to ask Measure H proponents why such an open-ended clause was left in a bill about Clean Energy. That’s because that last part allows the Board, without a vote, to immediately issue bonds to take over cable television, telephone, trash and recycling service, or any “utility” the Board deems necessary. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

These aren’t far fetched ideas. The takeover of Comcast Cable has long been discussed, and it was not long ago that a publicly owned wireless Internet network was proposed. It’s time to ask Measure H proponents why they’re hiding this information from the voters – or if they’re even aware of these loopholes?

More importantly, voters need to ask themselves if they want to give away to the Board of Supervisors the power to issue revenue bonds without a vote – for any project they want. They need to ask Measure H proponents why that is.

The Dirty Secret Behind the So Called “Clean Energy” Initiative in San Francisco

Disclaimer: I do some work for the No on H campaign. But my views on the issue were decided long before I took the job.

There’s no denying that people want to see Good Things happen in San Francisco, and around the country, when it comes to global warming. People have responded to Vice President Gore’s film, and want to do the right thing. So it’s a bit disturbing when people’s good intentions are manipulated by politicians, as they are with the so-called “Clean Energy Act” (aka Measure H) in San Francisco.

The measure claims simply to be about “clean energy” sources for San Francisco. But once you read the measure, you find out two things. It’s not really about encouraging the use of clean energy sources for San Francisco residents – it’s about a multi-billion dollar take over of a private utility by the City of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. But more importantly, the measure would actually replace enforceable state regulations with regards to clean energy, and allow a City-run utility to use any power source – clean or not – so long as it’s “non nuclear.”

Yes, you read that right. The so-called “Clean Energy Act” has two loopholes large enough to drive a fleet of panda-burning Hummers through that allow this to happen. First, publicly owned utilities are EXEMPT from the strict regulations that will ensure private power companies will adhere to rules that require clean energy sources. So while PG and E, a company strictly regulated by the Public Utilities Commission, must comply with these rules, a City-run system will not.

Worse, the act defines clean energy as simply any source that is “non-nuclear.” By that definition, coal, natural gas, diesel, and other fossil fuels could be used by a City owned system. While San Franciscans will go to the polls and think they’re voting for clean energy, in fact they could be voting to open the door to more polluting energy sources if a City-run system can’t provide the power we need to turn on the lights every day.

San Francisco has an unfortunate history of packaging bad legislation in good wrappers – in the 1950s citizens voted to “save” the historic Cable Car system – but the measure in fact dismantled the useful and profitable network and turned it into the tourist ride that it is today.

Likewise, the proponents of the Clean Energy Act use the spirit of Al Gore’s call to fight global warming to package an expensive takeover of a private utility by the Board of Supervisors – one that has consistently been rejected by voters in the past. Voters will need to cut through the packaging and see this plan for what it really is.

Public Pollution?

Most Californians see San Francisco as a center of environmental activism. But the renewed fight over public power on the November ballot in San Francisco is already laying bare the fault line between environmentalists and public power advocates.

For several years, advocates of Public Power like Supervisor Aaron Peskin and Bevan Dufty have being pushing to build three polluting power plants near Potrero Hill, an inner city neighborhood that has been highly-impacted by industrial pollution.  

But a new study just released by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission shows that their plan to build power plants would be nearly twice as polluting as a proposal supported by most environmentalists who want to retrofit the existing plants with cleaner facilities as a bridge to complete phase-out of the fossil-fuel generation in San Francisco.

So why would so-called environmentalists fight so hard to build polluting power plants?

Public power – that’s why.

The three “peaker” power plants would be owned by the city – and they would form the backbone of decades long quest of the Bay Guardian-left to create a public power system in San Francisco, whatever the cost. The Chronicle, for once, had it spot on when they wrote “Is the religion of ‘public power’ really more important to them than San Franciscans’ health and the city’s goals about reducing greenhouse gas emissions?”

So it’s going to be interesting to watch how the goal of public power collides with the green rhetoric of public power advocates.

We know the politicians like Peskin and Dufty are supporting polluting power plants – even though there is a much greener alternative. But that’s pretty typical. Dufty wants to be mayor and he needs the Guardian endorsement and Peskin just wants to get even with whoever crossed him last.

But even the hard-core enviros, like Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly, are also putting public power before green power. Their public power measure exempts the city from state renewable energy goals – and replaces them with local requirements. What’s the difference? The local requirements are unenforceable. And they can mean whatever the public power advocates want them to mean. Take for example large hydro generation. The state says that’s not renewable because of the devastating impact large hydro has on wildlife, fish populations and water quality. In SF – with a stroke of the pen they say they are going to call large hydro “renewable.”

Most of this same crew stalled San Francisco’s first-in-the-nation local incentive for solar. Why? They didn’t want the money to go to individuals – they wanted it to go to city-owned public power.

And don’t even start on the opportunity cost. It would cost billions to takeover PG&E – money that could be spent on actually creating renewable energy rather than on just changing ownership and changing renewable standards to make them LESS ENFORCABLE.

Public Power was once a priority of the left in San Francisco. But given what’s happening with our planet – is it still the top priority? In the next few months we are going to see what’s really more important to San Franciscans – cleaning up our environment or creating a public power system.