Big Oil, King Coal won’t take recess!

David Moulton

August could prove to be a pivotal moment for energy and climate legislation as members return to their districts and listen to constituents about the fall agenda.

In June the House of Representatives voted for the first time to limit the release of global warming pollution into the atmosphere, and boost clean energy alternatives to compete with the incumbent and powerful fossil fuel industries. So now the “Just Say No” Caucus, made up of an amalgam of climate deniers, Big Oil and King Coal lobbyists, and people whose primary definition of success is to see President Obama fail, are energized and active and determined to kill climate action in the Senate.

Have you been listening to these guys? One opponent of the climate bill sees the death of health care reform as the key, saying that if he can “stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.

Better to have a broken president than a better climate?

Conservative columnist Bill Kristol wrote “This is no time to pull punches. Go for the kill.”

These guys aren’t just fired up and ready to go — they’re desperately seeking a full stop to everything the last election meant.

Clean energy jobs? No.
A sustainable climate? No.
A rational health care system? No.
Reasonable regulation of Wall Street speculation? No.

Are they winning?

Well, I wish the answer were “ No,” but let’s be realistic. Right now — August 2009 — our victory on a clean energy and climate bill in the House is not moving in the Senate. Members are looking at the August recess as a time to take soundings back home, to hear what people think, to test their assumptions about the public mood against reality. And we know that those who wish to “kill” the president’s agenda and “break him” politically are vocal, vociferous, voluble and vehement.

We can’t outspend them. Exxon Mobil Corp., the biggest U.S. oil producer, reportedly spent more on Washington lobbying during the first half of the year than all clean-energy companies combined.

One utility in Alabama, which generates much of its electricity from coal, has hired over 60 lobbyists to make sure that its voice is heard by members of Congress.

And now we have learned that a coal association hired a consultant firm that sent fake letters to members of Congress opposing the Waxman-Markey bill in the House — literally stealing the letterheads of local organizations and urging a no vote on energy and climate.

But we outnumber them. The majority of Americans understand that the status quo isn’t working and we need to get smart about energy policy, climate policy and our future. Most would rather see our country moving forward, creating a clean energy future, new jobs, and a sustainable climate for our children. But are we motivated enough at what is being said and done to throttle clean energy to speak up?

We should be, because as I have said before, our chance to move this legislation through the Senate is not likely to come around again for a decade or more. Right now, President Obama is with us, and the House is with us. We have 60 Democrats in the Senate and a small core of caring Republicans as well. We don’t have millions to spend on misleading — or fraudulent — activities. We simply have our eye on the future — a future which we have an obligation to preserve for our children and their children. So let’s spend a little time in August countering all the noise, static, and lies from the opposition.

Write a letter. Attend a forum. Call your Senators — both of them. Tweet your friends and friend your fellow activists. Let’s make August as hot for our opponents as they are trying to make it for our supporters.