Forward on Climate!

Monday, February 18th, 2013 | Posted by Matt Abele | 4 Comments

This past weekend’s Forward on Climate rally in Washington, D.C., made it more evident than ever that America is ready for a clean energy future. I arrived on a bus from Asheville, N.C., to join close to 50,000 people from across the country and world. As a collective, we showed up inspired and enthused, ready to bring the fight to the White House.

Join the nearly 80,000 people who have signed an open letter to the president calling for bold climate action!

People gathered around a central stage located next to the Washington Monument to listen to keynote speakers ranging from U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to indigenous leaders from the U.S. and Canada. These speakers rallied up the crowd as they charged them to stand behind President Obama and make sure he sticks to his promise of a clean energy future by rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and promoting alternatives to coal, gas and oil.

Appalachian Voices staff attended the rally to support communities that have been devastated by mountaintop removal. We were there to join 167 fellow sponsoring organizations in a call for climate action, but also to remind those calling for major policy shifts that economic diversification in the region must be included in a national strategy to combat climate change.

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President Obama Focuses on Energy Jobs

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

Climate, Energy, Efficiency Feature as Key Pieces of SOTU

The first “State of the Union” address of President Obama’s second term had a little something for everybody. The President was aggressive about the need to tackle the problem of climate change, while using broad economic language to describe the potential benefits of growth in solar, wind, energy efficiency, and increased oil and gas exploration and consumption.

About the only energy industry the President didn’t throw a verbal bone to was the coal industry. But that doesn’t mean Appalachia isn’t directly implicated in some of the President’s new proposals.

Perhaps most importantly for our region, was how enthusiastically the President pushed rapid American investment in energy efficiency, saying:

I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

We live right here in the Saudi Arabia of energy waste – the southeastern United States. As such, Appalachian Voices staff and members listened to this proposal with great interest. Energy efficiency is the lowest hanging fruit to negate and replace declining coal demand. It is cheap, clean, and creates loads of good jobs while lowering electricity demand. Few places are better suited to take advantage of the enormous potential of energy efficiency than Appalachia and the southeastern United States, and efforts to use our resources more wisely could provide an out-sized benefit to our historically wasteful region…

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WATCH: Appalachian Kids Give Science Lesson to President Obama

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 | Posted by Matt Wasson | No Comments

Children in Appalachian coal mining communities are 42% more likely to be born with birth defects and have a life expectancy that is almost 5 years lower than the national average. As this short video shows, they understand why:

Dozens of scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal coal mining to high rates of cancer and other diseases in nearby communities. But as these children explain, you don’t need to be a scientist to understand the devastating impact that mountaintop removal has on the health and quality of life of people living nearby.

Thanks to thousands of people who have spoken up for Appalachian mountains and communities time and again, President Obama’s agencies have taken major steps to reduce the destruction caused by mountaintop removal coal mining over the past four years.

As the president is sworn in to a second term later this month, we have an opportunity to finish the job and stop mountaintop removal once and for all. But we need to ensure that President Obama makes this a priority in his second term.

That’s where you come in. Please join these kids in sending a clear message to the White House: No more excuses, Mr. President. End mountaintop removal. Now.

Help these children spread the word about what’s happening in their communities by sharing this video with your friends, family and colleagues.

Electoral Math for “All You Climate People”

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 | Posted by Matt Wasson | 2 Comments

During a campaign season in which climate change featured most prominently as a laugh line at the Republican National Convention, the low point was when CNN’s Candy Crowley addressed “all you climate people” in her explanation of why climate didn’t come up during the presidential debates. Who knew that human disruption of the global climate had become such a narrow, provincial concern?

But there’s important information in the fact that a senior reporter for a major network could dismiss climate change as essentially a special interest issue. It’s evidence, if more were needed, that “all us climate people” got our butts kicked in the battle for the narrative in the 2012 election.

And like the Republican Party, which is now undergoing the usual soul searching that follows a big electoral defeat, those of us who believe that inaction on climate is the greatest threat facing our civilization (never mind the economy) have some serious soul searching to do about our own defeat, which occurred long before any votes were counted.

Crowley’s explanation was consistent with the conventional wisdom on why the president didn’t make climate an issue. Because it was an “Economy election” and everyone in the DC press must accept that government action on climate change could do serious harm to the economy (because “it’s become part of the culture,” even if it’s not true), any discussion of climate policy by the president would have been off-message and worked against his chances for re-election.

The unconventional wisdom, popular among “climate people,” is that the Obama campaign failed to recognize the high level of popular support for action on climate change and missed a golden opportunity to seize a winning wedge issue when they chose the more politically expedient route of ignoring it.

There’s probably some truth to both of these explanations, but here’s a third one that is particularly useful in the context of a presidential election: the campaigns avoided talking about climate policy because they believed that raising the issue would be harmful in a few swingy areas of key swing states that would likely decide the election.

Look, it’s tempting to point to all the national polls showing popular support for climate policy and say, “climate is a winning campaign issue.” But a political strategist would find nothing useful in those polls because campaigns are not won by appealing to the sentiments of the average American. Similarly, when a presidential candidate is speaking to a national audience, it’s easy to believe they are speaking to us — all of us. But they’re not. By and large, the candidates’ speeches are written to appeal to a handful of undecided voters in a few swing states, with just enough partisan red meat thrown in to motivate the party base to volunteer for the campaign and turn out to vote.

Americans understand that those swingy areas are the “tail that wags the dog” of our national elections but don’t necessarily think about the logical conclusion of that fact; the concerns and attitudes of swing voters in swing states are the “tail that wags the dog” of campaign messages, media coverage, and thus public understanding of what issues are important in the campaign.

The problem is fossil fuel interests have figured out how to wag that dog. They know they can’t win public opinion nationally, but by focusing resources in key areas of swing states such as Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, they can frame the local discussion of climate policy and environmental regulations to their advantage (i.e., as a “Job-killing war on coal“) and essentially neutralize those issues at the national level — at least during the election season.

If the Obama campaign’s pre-election polling looked anything like the maps of election results in coal-mining regions of southwestern Virginia and southern Ohio, it’s easy to imagine strategists telling the president, “Don’t exacerbate this ‘war on coal’ thing or it could hurt us in swing states” (see map):

US_Election_Vote_Margins2

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OMB Watch Issues Report on Obama’s Rulemaking

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 | Posted by JW Randolph | No Comments

Our President has been very busy in his first two years in office. Taking steps to repeal a number of Bush Administration policies, and working to make his own stamp through the rulemaking process.

OMB Watch just released a report called “The Obama Approach to Public Protection: Rulemaking,” covering how the Obama Administration has made their mark with various guidance and rules through the federal agencies. Topics range from from coal ash, to mountaintop removal, to worker safety.

To download, click here or the image on the right.

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