If you are voting in November 2010 and you care about Clean Energy and Conservation there are two things you need to keep in mind: The Issues and The Candidates.
Regarding the issues, there are really only 4 states with ballot initiatives focused on Clean Energy and Conservation. I compiled this list by combing through the ballot measures for all states that I found at Ballotpedia.org. Even if your state isn't one of the 4 below, I recommend checking the list for your state. Some of the measures are important, while others not related to conservation are a bit silly (while SC has no measures promoting conservation, they do have a measure that will increase the importance of hunting and fishing in the state - which may somehow help conservation efforts?) Here are the states with clean energy and conservation issues on the ballot:
- California Proposition 23 - This one is a bit complicated, but if you vote yes you want to repeal clean energy laws put in place to limit air pollution in hopes that it will decrease the unemployment rate. Supporters of the prop say that if the clean energy laws aren't repealed 1 million jobs will be lost, adding to CA unemployment rate. People who oppose Prop 23 (a Voter's Guide to Prop 23) say that any jobs lost due to clean energy laws would be jobs gained in the clean energy sector! That seems logical to me. If I had to choose between jobs that pollute and degrade the environment vs. jobs that create a more sustainable future...I think you know which one I'm going to choose. I am a bit skeptical of the claims the supporters of Prop 23 make because the two biggest supporters of Prop 23 are Valero and Tesoro. These companies are Big Oil companies with both of their corporate HQ in San Antonio, Texas. Why would oil companies in Texas care about a clean air law in California? Well, they operate oil refineries in California and they would have to pay extra due to the refineries' pollution. Hmmm....whose interest do you think the oil companies have in mind: the State of California and Clean Air or the profit returned to shareholders? The big wigs behind the big oil opposition live in Texas, far away from the pollution in California. Smells fishy to me...
- Georgia Amendment 4 - Ok, this one is a bit simpler and more straight forward. As I mentioned when I wrote a blog post on Amendment 4, it is a great idea that is a win-win for all. It basically allows the state to enter into performance contracts with energy efficiency companies that invest in energy saving technologies. Read my post for more information on this great amendment. I think you'd have a hard time finding someone who didn't want to vote "YES" to Amendment 4.
- Iowa Measure 1 - From the Ballotpedia page describing the measure: "If the measure is approved by a simple majority of Iowa voters, the next time the Iowa Legislature approves a sales tax increase, the measure would allow 3/8ths of one cent to be used in support of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. This would establish permanent revenue for natural resources and outdoor recreational programs in the state." Seems like a great idea to me. Not everything in Iowa can be covered in corn/soy fields whose pesticides and fertilizers drain into the rivers and water supply.
- Washington Referred Bil 52 - Again, from Ballotpedia.org, "The proposal calls for a $500 million bond that lawmakers estimate would create 40,000 new jobs in public school and government building renovations; similar to a 2009 proposal that stalled in legislature. In contrary to a 2009 proposed bill, which lawmakers worried would harm the state's bond rating because of the large amount - $2 billion, the proposed bill is smaller in size and would not add liability to the general fund, according to legislators. According to the proposed legislation, bond proceeds would be spent on replacing roofs, installing insulation, cleaning mold-infested buildings and making energy-saving improvements. These improvements would take place on school campuses and state offices.
Now that you know about some of the issues at each state, who can you vote for to improve clean energy and conservation issues at the national and state level?
In order to help you learn about candidates that support conservation the group Energy Independent Congress has compiled a list of candidates that "have fought and will fight for America to be CLEAN ENERGY INDEPENDENT!" The list has been compiled with the help of The League of Conservation Voters, The Sierra Club, The National Wildlife Foundation Action Fund and Vote Vets. The goal, as laid out on their website:
We ask that you vote for ONLY those candidates, Republican and Democratic, who share the vision of CLEAN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE and have the guts to do what is right for our country . . . to create a new, American Energy “Marshall Plan” for a 21st Century America.
We ask you to look past the divisive rhetoric, the billions spent by special interests on dirty campaign ads and VOTE! We, the People, will elect EVERY member of The House of Representatives and a decisive number of Senators. We CAN make this a reality . . . with our vote on November 2!
If your state lacks a representative that appears on this list, you can always check out the Senate/Congress clean energy scorecard for your state and district. You can use the score to help determine if your candidates truly support a clean energy future for the United States. From the website describing the scorecard:
The 2009 Scorecard covers other key issues, such as public lands, water quantity and quality, forest management, offshore drilling, wildlife conservation at home and abroad, chemical security and population. Going forward, the biggest single step that Congress can take in 2010 is to finish the excellent work started in the House by swiftly passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill.
Finally, I highly recommend checking out the post on Huffington Post titled The Voter's Guide for November 2 by Richard Greene which is focused on issues that would help America become clean energy independent. The post lays out the reasons for supporting a clean energy future. And it would seem that almost nobody would disagree, but unfortunately - as one of the commenters on the post pointed out - a large portion of America is fooled into believing that all candidates who support Clean Energy and Conservation just want is higher taxes:
I couldn't agree more, but you're preaching to the choir. Whenever a candidate, such as Robin Carnahan (Mapawatt Blog: Senate candidate from Missouri), proposes any tax on fossil fuels in order to promote renewable sources of energy, she gets hit with an ad that goes something like this:
"Robin Carnahan is in favor of job killing energy taxes."
The folks in Branson or Ozark hear this and say "Can't vot for her. She wants to raise taxes."
Until we have $5 gas or long lines at the pumps, how can you get ordinary people to understand how important energy independence is? How can you compete with the millions of dollars the oil and coal industry spends on lobbying congress?
And unfortunately, the comment is right. Until the majority of society can realize that sustainability (clean energy and conservation fall under sustainability) is key to America's future, and that sustainability doesn't just mean higher taxes, then we are in for an uphill struggle.
Highlighting this fact is a recent post by Thomas Friedman titled "An X-Ray of Dysfunction" in which he mentions a piece written for the Oct. 11 issue of The New Yorker by Ryan Lizza, explaining how the bipartisan effort by Senators John Kerry (D), Lindsey Graham (R), and Joseph Lieberman (I) to produce an energy-climate bill and enhance clean-tech innovation was killed this year. From the Friedman article (Lizza describing what happened to Senator Graham when it became clear in his home state of South Carolina that he was supporting a clean energy bill with Democrats):
“Graham was holding a town-hall meeting in the gym of a high school in Greenville, South Carolina. His constituents were not happy. One man accused him of ‘making a pact with the Devil.’ Another shouted, ‘No principled compromise!’ One audience member asked, ‘Why do you think it’s necessary to get in bed with people like John Kerry?’ Graham, dressed in a blue blazer and khakis, paced the floor, explaining that there were only forty Republicans in the Senate, which meant that he had to work with the sixty Democrats. A man in the bleachers shouted, “You’re a traitor, Mr. Graham! You’ve betrayed this nation and you’ve betrayed this state!’ ”
So apparently to some voters in South Carolina, working on both sides of the aisle and supporting Clean Energy in the U.S. means you are a traitor? This is what is wrong with America today; this extreme polarization that means compromising on good ideas (like Clean Energy) makes you a traitor. It is for this reason that those of us who believe in a sustainable future for America have to work that much harder to support candidates who also believe in it.
Get out and vote on Tuesday November 2!