by Captain Future
Mon Nov 13th, 2006 at 11:41:29 PM EST
Iraq, corruption, even immigration got the headlines, but that doesn't mean the environment wasn't a factor in the recent U.S. election, and therefore isn't a priority with voters. According to these environmentalists, not only was the environment a major issue in key campaigns, but environment and energy issues helped elect Democrats. Said the president of the League of Conservation Voters:
"This is the first election I can remember in U.S. history that has put such a specific focus on a top-priority environmental issue, which this year has been a clean-energy future."
This was especially true in races that featured anti-environment incumbents, such as Representative Richard Pombo in California and Senator Conrad Burns in Montana. Senator-elect Jon Tester in Montana was a shining case--a former organic farmer, he ran strongly on promoting Montana as a leader in a new clean energy economy.
Other candidates who made their opponents' anti-environment stands an issue and/or made their own support for clean energy and environmental issues part of their campaign included Senator-elect Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Governor-elect Ted Strickland of Ohio and Governor-elect Bill Ritter in Colorado.
Note the names of these states: not always the image of places with "Sierra Club values." But as the political director of the Sierra Club observed:
"The striking thing isn't just that the energy/environment issue played a decisive role in these races, it's that it was used to bring an optimistic, inspirational message to an election year marked by lots of negative campaigning."
A few days after his re-election by about 20 points, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania announced that PA will host the U.S. headquarters of a German solar power integration company--not the first to set up in the Commonwealth. Rendell states flatly: "Pennsylvania's new economy is being powered by clean energy development."
This list of candidates the environment helped includes even one Republican--Arnold Schwarzenegger in California--who supported the climate crisis initiative passed by the legislature. This agreement was cited by the Democrat who will soon to be chair of the Senate Environment Committee--Senator Barbara Boxer of California-- as a possible template for proposals on a national scale.
The fact that these wins added up to Democratic congressional majorities and the resulting chairmanships is another major plus. The most dramatic difference is that Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, chaired in this Congress by Republican Senator Inhofe who considers the Climate Crisis a hoax, but chaired in the next Congress by Barbara Boxer, who calls the Climate Crisis "the challenge of our generation."
Not a moment too soon, as the Global Carbon Project warns that carbon emissions are accelerating out of control. According to the Independent:
The growth in global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels over the past five years was four times greater than for the preceding 10 years, according to a study that exposes critical flaws in the attempts to avert damaging climate change.
As Democrats look ahead to Congressional priorities and as potential candidates look to 2008, a winning as well as a critical strategy will be to build consensus for a plan to deal with emerging consequences of the Climate Crisis in the near term, while building a clean energy infrastructure to prevent the worst from happening in the future. And to emphasize the economic and social benefits of re-industrializing America for clean energy and Climate Crisis technologies.
All candidates should heed well the words of President Bill Clinton during a question and answer period following his address at the recent "Securing the Commmon Good" conference at the Center for American Progress. Speaking about economic inequality, he observed:
"And the lay down, obvious, sitting here, slapping-us-in-the-face answer is to make a commitment to a clean, independent energy future. It will create millions of jobs, and many of them are not exportable."
He went on to assert that if he were a presidential candidate today:
I would say to the American people, 'If you want to do this in a big way, vote for me; if you don't, find somebody else because this is all I'm going to work on till I get it figured out.' Because this is just a huge opportunity."