Recent William & Mary grad Priscilla Lin, wrote this piece. Priscilla is concerned about climate change and in particular ocean issues. She volunteers with Oceana, which is a co-sponsor of the Sept. 4 Dominion-Dump-ALEC rally in Arlington County.
It's time for Virginians to call on Dominion Resources, Inc. to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Join me for a Dominion-Dump-ALEC rally at ALEC Headquarters in the Crystal City area of Arlington County on September 4 at noon.
As a native Virginian and 2014 college graduate interested in protecting the environment, it comes as no surprise to me that Dominion Virginia Power, Virginia's largest electric utility, is dirty. Dirty fossil fuel energy, which contributes to climate change and ocean acidification, is not the way towards a better, cleaner future. I learned recently that Dominion belongs to ALEC, an organization with a pro-polluter agenda. Dominion publicly touts its supposed environmental awareness, but it doesn't explain what it does behind closed doors with the shady anti-climate and anti-democracy group ALEC.
You won't find any mention on Dominion's website or in its public pronouncements of its work to undermine environmental protections through its participation in ALEC, which has been described as "a corporate bill mill." It brings together corporations and state legislators and comes up with "model legislation" for the legislators to introduce back home.
ALEC has consistently pushed anti-climate and anti-environment legislation. Dominion's association with the group directly conflicts with its claims to support clean energy. You can learn more about ALEC at alecexposed.org.
A recent report by the Toronto Star reveals ALEC's "plans to undo environmental legislation" with its own model bills, referring to leaked internal documents from ALEC's recent summer meeting in Dallas. Among the leaked internal ALEC documents were slides from a conference presentation denouncing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and promoting ways to "rein in EPA" by impeding renewable energy development, opposing carbon pricing, "lifting obstacles to conventional energy," and more. You can access the slides, posted online by the nonprofit watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). That ALEC presentation showcases 19 ALEC model bills that specifically target the group's goals. The presentation was given by Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute-an extreme group notorious for its support of climate-science denial (even comparing those who "still believe" in climate science to mass murderers).
I thought this excellent article by Tigercomm President Mike Casey was reposting here from Scaling Green, just in case any U.S. Senators, Representatives, or Congressional candidates from Virginia think Keystone's a good idea for some strange reason. Here are seven strong reasons why it should be rejected.
There is less than a month before the justices of the Nebraska Supreme court hear arguments in a case that will have a big impact on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The court will hear the argument that ranchers and farmers in the pipeline's path must have their lifestyles ruined first before standing up to the bullying and lies by TransCanada. I'm not making that up - it's the actual argument that TransCanada's apologists are saying. Good luck with that.
A loss in court for TransCanada would be significant for the premier pusher of tar sands, the dirtiest form of oil on the planet. The result would be hitting the "restart" button, with new pressure to reroute the pipeline and its highly toxic, spill-prone contents away from the Ogallala Aquifer, the source of drinking water for three million Americans and countless, drought-stricken farms and ranches.
However, the company's Keystone problems are far more extensive than just this court case. Markets and the truth are walking away from this project. This is despite the desperate, high-dollar propaganda and influence-peddling campaign by the tar sands industry. Keystone's rejection is not just the smart thing to do. It's increasingly inevitable.
"Let the seas rise. Let the wind blow." That's top Republican commentator Erick Erickson's position on climate change. I would say he's a "conservative" commentator, but there's absolutely nothing conservative about wanting to gas up your SUV cheaply now and while leaving the pollution bill for future generations to pay. It's pure selfishness - "I've got mine so screw you" presented as profound political philosophy.
Erickson may just be one blogger, but here he gets to the core motivations of today's Congressional Republican leadership - America isn't worth investing in. Energy? Just give me what's cheapest today - if we need alternatives tomorrow, someone else can spend the money on it. Education? If my family needs that, I can pay to send my children to private school, but I won't volunteer a dime in additional taxes to improve our community. The environment? I can buy home air filters and bottled water - if you can't, too bad for you & yours.
"We are all going to die," Erickson cynically concludes. "Just not today." And by then, it'll be up to our children and grandchildren to build massive hurricane barriers outside every East Coast city to keep out the rising seas and monster storms as the bill comes due for all that cheap coal, oil and fracked gas.
Cross posted from Scaling Green. For Blue Virginia readers, I'd just add that Gov. McAuliffe's office should read this study as they consider how to move Virginia forward in terms of energy efficiency, renewable power, and of course meeting the EPA's new rules for cutting CO2 emissions.
Clearly, we believe it makes sense to slash the air and water pollution that is inextricably linked to fossil fuel extraction, processing, and consumption. We also strongly believe that moving from a dirty to a clean energy economy makes sense on a whole host of levels -- economic, environmental, national security, health, etc. Yet opponents of a clean energy transition invariably raise claims that it will cost too much to do so, even though research has shown that fossil fuels are actually FAR more expensive than they appear to be, in large part because they are allowed to pollute without having to pay for doing so. Thus, the full "lifecycle cost" of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year, but you won't find that $500 billion a year incorporated into the price of coal, making it artificially cheap, and strongly skewing U.S. energy markets in favor of fossil fuels. Incorporate all the health and environmental "externalities" associated with fossil fuels, while taking away the enormous subsidies they receive from taxpayers, and it's a totally different story -- one in which clean energy would win by a wide margin.
The tragic, heartbreaking death of female sei whale the other day in the Elizabeth River both saddened and enraged me. Why enraged? Because the whale died mostly from humans trashing our oceans with plastic (which the whale accidentally ingested, blocking its stomach and causing it to slowly starve to death). For "good measure," the poor creature "might have been hit by a ship shortly before dying the previous day." So, chalk that one up to humans on both counts. Ugh. Sadly, this case demonstrates the hazards marine life is exposed to due to human activities on an ongoing basis. That includes the aforementioned plastic pollution and ships bashing into whales (and other animals), but also the oil-industry practice of seismic airgun testing - loud as explosives, can cause hearing loss and other injuries, even death, to whales and other sea creatures.
See to the right (click to "embiggen") and on the "flip" for a letter from several Members of Congress, including Representatives Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott and Jim Moran of Virginia, urging the Obama administration to forbid seismic testing off the east coast. In addition to the danger of oil spills, the process of FINDING the oil should never involve practices which can lead to mass injury and death in the oceans. Why is this even a question, other than unbridled greed, callousness and stupidity?
P.S. To sign the Center for Biological Diversity's petition against this outrageous practice, click here. Thanks.
Cross-posted from Scaling Green; Blue Virginia readers should particularly focus on how pathetically far behind Virginia is when it comes to energy efficiency improvements. For that, we can thank our old pals at Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power, which continues to resist any serious attempts at cleaning up its dirty act. #FAIL as usual for those guys, as well as for the General Assembly that lets them pollute at will.
The release in late May of EPA's draft rules on carbon pollution at existing power plants gave individual states a tremendous amount of flexibility in how they meet the proposed targets. For instance, a state rich in potential solar power resources might choose to focus on increasing the percentage of its electricity generated from the sun. Same thing with wind power. And, of course, all states can use energy efficiency gains as a key part of their plans. As the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions explains:
Through energy efficiency programs, states can drive down their total consumption, including consumption of electricity generated by fossil fuels. This in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions, bringing states closer to their emission rate target. EPA projects that each state is capable of eventually reducing electricity demand by 1.5 percent each year, in line with the rate leading states have achieved. States are projected to meet this figure in varying years, taking into account how advanced each state was in 2012. This 1.5 percent projection is incremental, meaning EPA expects an additional 1.5 percent savings each year, for a much larger cumulative savings by 2030. Projections for states that currently reduce demand by less than 1.5 percent per year are designed in a way that allow a ramp-up period before reaching this level, but EPA has determined that all states have the capacity to meet this projection by 2025 at the latest. Note that under the proposal, states are not obligated to meet EPA's efficiency projections in demonstrating compliance; provided the ultimate target emission rate is met, states could use any combination of measures they see fit.
The map above shows each state's 2012 incremental efficiency savings as a percentage of the 1.5 percent projection. States colored with a darker shade of blue are closer to meeting this projection. Two states, Arizona and Maine, reported savings above 1.5 percent in 2012.
As we know, energy efficiency is generally considered to be the biggest "bang for the buck" when it comes to reducing energy consumption and carbon pollution, which means that this EPA goal makes a great deal of sense. Yet, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, only 21 states have mandatory Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, while 17 states have no energy efficiency standards at all. That's unfortunate, particularly given that Rocky Mountain Institute Chairman and Chief Scientist Amory Lovins has found that"adopting efficiency technologies aggressively yet cost-effectively, yield[s] at least a 12% annual real rate of return." As states formulate their plans aimed at meeting their EPA CO2 pollution reduction goals, it seems like pushing ahead on energy efficiency improvements should constitute an easy, "no brainer" option.
Logic 101: a) combustion of carbon-based fuels is causing dangerous global warming; b) we need to stop that ASAP; c) ergo, we need to slash our combustion of carbon-based fuels (and replace them with energy efficiency and non-carbon-based energy sources, which are increasingly as cheap or even cheaper than fossil fuels). Any further questions?
P.S. The good news is that a revenue-neutral carbon tax "creates jobs, grows the economy, saves lives, and makes Americans richer" while slashing carbon emissions. Win. Win. Win. Win. Win.
I received an email earlier today from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, commenting on a report that Dominion Virginia Power "is considering building 220 megawatts of solar energy in Virginia over five years starting in 2017." According to CCAN, "If pursued, this welcome announcement would likely represent a change in course from Dominion's latest 15-year energy plan proposed to Virginia's State Corporation Commission, which committed the company to increasing the proportion of clean energy in its mix by less than one percent over 15 years." Here's the rest of CCAN's statement, from Virginia Policy Director Dawone Robinson, followed by a few thoughts from yours truly.
This is Dominion's first-ever announced plan for building utility-scale solar power in Virginia, and we fully welcome it. After spending years pressing Dominion to make serious investments in solar energy here in Virginia, we're excited that Virginians could see the benefits of substantial amounts of clean energy from the state's largest carbon polluter.
Virginia's solar potential is substantial, and we urge Dominion to build these solar facilities as quickly as possible, especially given our state is playing catch up with our neighbors. Even if Dominion's newly announced 220 megawatts of solar power are fully developed by 2021, it will be little more than one third of North Carolina's current installed solar capacity of 592 megawatts.
Today's news serves as an important first step towards what should be a long-term commitment by Dominion to increase development of fossil-free energy technologies. As rising seas increasingly flood our coastal communities due to climate change and Richmond's asthma rates continue to lead the nation, the health and safety of Virginia's families depends on replacing toxic fossil fuels like coal and fracked natural gas with abundant, clean and cost-effective energy sources like solar power.
So, sure, praise Dominion Power for doing something positive, even if this is - as another environmental leader in Virginia put it to me - a "very modest baby step." At the same time, be super skeptical. Because, as that same environmental leader noted, while Dominion supposedly moves ahead with this "modest baby step" on utility-scale solar (e.g., NOT on people's rooftops, aka not "distributed" or "bottom up"), the concerns is that the company will simultaneously "be seeking to stifle competition from independent solar installers with a 'standby charge' or 'tax on the sun'." As another Virginia environmental leader told me, "the devil is in the details with these guys," and right now we have very few details on what Dominion's proposing to do exactly - when, where, etc.
The bottom line is, we need to be skeptical, VERY skeptical, about anything this company says it's going to do when it comes to energy efficiency or clean energy. But one thing seems certain: unlike many other utilities around the country that realize the top-down utility business model is dying and that they need to adapt to a world of cheap distributed energy (e.g., rooftop solar, batter storage that's increasingly affordable), Dominion seems to be clinging desperately to what they're used to: namely, controlling everything.
Studies have shown a strong connection between the phase-out of lead in gasoline starting in the mid-1970s and a plunge in violent crime in the following decades. As Kevin Drum reports at Mother Jones, a new study is connecting lower levels of childhood lead exposure to a later drop in the teen pregnancy rate:
For years conservatives bemoaned the problem of risky and violent behavior among children and teens of the post-60s era, mostly blaming it on the breakdown of the family and a general decline in discipline. Liberals tended to take this less seriously, and in any case mostly blamed it on societal problems. In the end, though, it turned out that conservatives were right. It wasn't just a bunch of oldsters complaining about the kids these days. Crime was up, drug use was up, and teen pregnancy was up. It was a genuine phenomenon and a genuine problem.
But liberals were right that it wasn't related to the disintegration of the family or lower rates of churchgoing or any of that. After all, families didn't suddenly start getting back together in the 90s and churchgoing didn't suddenly rise. But teenage crime, drug use, and pregnancy rates all went down. And down. And down.
Most likely, there was a real problem, but it was a problem no one had a clue about. We were poisoning our children with a well-known neurotoxin, and this toxin lowered their IQs, made them into fidgety kids, wrecked their educations, and then turned them into juvenile delinquents, teen mothers, and violent criminals. When we got rid of the toxin, all of these problems magically started to decline.
Today, we're debating whether to cut the toxic heavy metal and carbon pollution from coal by shutting down the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants. But the benefits aren't hidden - we know coal kills thousands of people every year and causes thousands more asthma attacks in children.
Electricity rates and jobs are obviously important, but why do reporters talk almost exclusively about those, and hardly at all about these very real impacts on our lives? When did human health become a sidebar story?
A new report from the non-profit group Ceres shows Dominion Resources, the parent of Dominion Virginia Power, winning last place among investor-owned utilities on a nationwide ranking of renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings.
That's left Virginians wondering how a company that talks so big succeeds in doing so little. And more importantly, what would it take for Dominion to rank even among the average?
Dominion came in 30th out of 32 in renewable energy sales, at 0.52%. On energy efficiency, it achieved 31st out of 32 on savings measured cumulatively (0.41%), and 32nd out of 32 measured on an incremental annual level (at 0.03%). Together these put our team in last place overall-a notable achievement for a utility that trumpets its solar investments and carbon-cutting progress.
To show just how awful Dominion's performance is, the top five finishers achieved between 16.67% and 21.08% on renewable energy sales, 10.62-17.18% on cumulative annual energy efficiency, and 1.46-1.77% on incremental annual energy efficiency. National averages were 5.29% for renewable energy sales, 4.96% for cumulative efficiency savings, and 0.73% for incremental annual efficiency savings. Rankings were based on 2012 numbers, the latest year for which data were available.
The following remarks were delivered by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington/Fairfax) to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality at a hearing in south Alexandria a couple days ago, as well as earlier today at the EPA public comments hearing on Constitution Ave. in Washington, DC. Thanks to Del. Lopez for speaking up for our environment, and for urging action on what is arguably the most pressing problem facing mankind in the 21st century - climate change. I would hope that all Virginia Democrats - and Republicans, if they'll come to their senses on this and stop treating it as a partisan issue - would weigh in as Del. Lopez has done, in strong support of climate action and a rapid transition from dirty to clean energy. It's also crucial to counter garbage like this ("Fossil Fuel-Funded Groups Organizing Public Rallies Against New EPA Climate Rule").
Despite the best efforts in some quarters to ignore it - climate change is a problem that threatens the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Whether it's the economic repercussions of sea-level rise on Virginia's coast-line, the health consequences of breathing polluted air, or the threat of more extreme weather conditions, climate change is having an impact on the day-to-day lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth.
At this time, Virginia's coastal region is experiencing the highest rates of sea-level rise along the entire East Coast of the U.S. In fact, the Hampton Roads area is second only to New Orleans in its vulnerability to sea level impacts. The Norfolk-Virginia Beach Metropolitan Area is ranked 10th in flooding from sea-level rise.
We cannot afford to wait any longer to take action on climate change in VA - our economy, health, and long-term quality of life rest in the balance.
According to the most recent estimates by the CDC, 8.7 percent of Virginia's adult population suffers from asthma. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital.
In 2012, 25 million metric tons of carbon pollution were emitted from power plants in Virginia - equal to the yearly pollution from over 5 million cars. This is unacceptable.
We have a moral obligation to address this crisis now so that we do not leave our children an environment that is polluted and damaged beyond repair.
For these reasons, I strongly urge the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to adopt the guidelines of the President's Clean Power Plan to address climate change in the U.S.
When reporters ignore climate change in their stories, they end up sounding like they're blaming the supernatural for events easily connected to climate change. I'm late in getting to this, but take this Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot story from January on a sharp decline in catch of striped bass:
They say there are a handful of elements that have lowered the ocean take the past two years.
Weather has been the biggest reason. Warmer starts to the past two winters have caused many rockfish to stay in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, or up the coast around upper Maryland and New Jersey. [...]
"It's been the strangest year," said Rob O'Reilly, chief of fisheries management for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. "The weather has been so screwy that some fish haven't moved south like they usually do, and the ones that have positioned themselves offshore."
Reporters are often reluctant to connect the dots to climate change because they're not climate science experts and they're worried that doing so will draw the ire of anti-science Tea Party activists.
But when reporters ignore reality, they leave their audience absolutely baffled. Strange! Screwy! Don't ask me for answers, you're on your own! And then newspapers wonder why half of their audience has stopped paying $15 a month for a subscription. If you have to go find the truth yourself anyway, might as well do it for free on the internet.
Back in the summer of 2008, incurable Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich pushed the slogan "drill here, drill now, pay less," claiming that making the U.S. more oil-independent would be a solution to high gas prices. Democrats, worried voters would reject the reality there's nothing we can do to lower market-set gas prices and absolutely terrified of saying no to Big Oil, embraced the slogan. Later, President Barack Obama implemented it as our national policy. Six years later, how's drill baby drill working out for you?
Today, while U.S. oil production is near all-time highs, gas prices also remain near all-time highs. Drill baby drill has been great for multinational oil companies, but terrible for American consumers. Meanwhile, we continue shoveling billions in annual taxpayer subsidies to those same oil companies.
A side effect of higher oil production is that oil transportation disasters are also at record highs. Oil train wrecks and spills, gas pipeline explosions, and oil pipeline ruptures are skyrocketing. Our communities, wildlife and clean air and water are now at the mercy of our national petro-state.
Note that gas prices hit their all-time high of $4.46 in July 2008 under President George W. "Texas Oilman Who'll Lasso Those Saudi Arabians Into Submission" Bush, well above the prior peak of $3.70 under President Ronald "Yes Another Oil-Friendly Republican Are You Seeing The Pattern Yet" Reagan.
Governor McAuliffe visited First Landing State Park on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach to sign Executive Order 19, convening the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission.
The bipartisan Commission is made up of leaders from around the state including local elected officials, members of the General Assembly, business leaders, environmental advocates, faith leaders, and industry representatives.
“We need to prepare Virginia’s coastal communities to deal with the growing threat of climate change, which is why I’ve re-convened the Climate Commission for the first time in four years,” stated Governor McAuliffe. “Virginia has the opportunity not only to be a leader in finding creative ways to mitigate climate change in the future but also to adapt to the effects of climate change that we have already begun to see here in the Commonwealth. I have asked Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward and Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran to co-chair the Commission, which will focus on protecting Virginia’s citizens, our environment, and our industries in every region of Virginia.”
This Commission will evaluate the recommendations made by then-Governor Kaine’s Climate Commission, determine what actions were taken on those recommendations, and issue an updated final report. The Executive Order gives the Commission one year to complete its work.
More than 220,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles are on America’s roads today, including over 3,000 in Virginia (a 1,000% increase since early 2012), delivering real benefits for our health and our environment, according to a new report released today by Environment Virginia. In just the last two years, annual sales of electric vehicles have increased by 500 percent. Now, with strong implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the development of more renewable energy, electric vehicles are set to deliver even greater benefits for the environment.
“It’s time to charge ahead,” said Sarah Bucci, Environment Virginia’s campaign director. “It’s not just because electric cars are speedy, quiet and cool-looking – they are also one of the most important tools we have to break our dependence on oil, clean up our air, improve our health and protect our climate.”
The report, “Driving Cleaner: More Electric Vehicles Mean Less Pollution,” shows that electric vehicles could prevent more than 320,000 metric tons of climate-changing carbon pollution annually in Virginia by 2025. That’s the equivalent of saving more than 15 million gallons of gasoline per year, or eliminating tailpipe pollution from 67,000 of today’s cars and trucks.
“This report provides an exciting read for Virginians embracing electricity as a cleaner domestic choice for their vehicle fuel,” said Alleyn Harned, Executive Director of Virginia Clean Cities and EV owner. “With hundreds of public charging locations in the state, the ease of home charging, and options available from a range of vehicle manufactures, electric cars are an exciting clean fuel vehicle."
The following resolution was approved unanimously yesterday by the Arlington County Board. Nice job! Also, for more on this subject, see here, here, and here.
Resolution Concerning Horizontal Fracturing in the George Washington National Forest
WHEREAS¸ the George Washington National Forest is located in the Potomac River Watershed and plays a vital role in protecting downstream water quality; and
WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River is the sole raw water source for water treated by the Washington Aqueduct Division of the UnitedStates Army Corps of Engineers, serving approximately 1 million residents of Arlington County, the District of Columbia, the City of Falls Church and a portion of Fairfax County; and
WHEREAS¸ Arlington Countypurchases its water from the Washington Aqueduct and distributes it to the over 210,000 residents that live in Arlington and hundreds of thousands of others who work and play in our community on a daily basis; and
WHEREAS¸ the Potomac River flows to the Chesapeake Bay, a vital estuary for which Arlington continues to invest substantial sums to protect from pollution; and
WHEREAS, the United States Forest Service is currently in the process of updating its George Washington National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan, which will direct natural resource management for the forest for the next 10 to 15 years, including the possibility of mining the Marcellus Shale by horizontal hydraulic fracturing; and
WHEREAS¸ horizontal fracturing is currently exempted from many of the requirements of the federal laws that protect our nation’s water supply, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act; and
WHEREAS, at the request of the United States Congress, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting a research study on the potential impact of hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas on drinking water resources; and
WHEREAS¸ numerous other stakeholders have expressed their concerns with horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest, including the EPA, the National Park Service, and many of the localities in our region that depend upon the Potomac River for their water supply; and
WHEREAS, the August 2011 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the George Washington National Forest, developed by the United States Forest Service, states “concern about the development of gas resources in the Marcellus shale formation led to Plan direction that horizontal drilling would not be allowed on any federal leases. This restriction is based on concerns about the impacts of extensive hydraulic fracturing associated with horizontal drilling on water quality, the unknown potential for developing the Marcellus shale formation on the George Washington National Forest, and the limited experience with horizontal drilling in the immediate vicinity of the GWNF.”
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE ARLINGTON COUNTY BOARD:
Expresses our concern about the potential impact of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest on the Potomac River Watershed, and therefore the quality of Arlington County’s water supply, and;
Supports the United States Forest Service’s proposal, contained in the George Washington National Forest Draft Forest Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, to prohibit the use of horizontal fracturing in the George Washington National Forest.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 14, 2014
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-IRVINE COMMENCEMENT CEREMONY
12:10 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Hello, Anteaters! (Applause.) That is something I never thought I'd say. (Laughter.) Please, please take a seat.
To President Napolitano -- which is a nice step up from Secretary; to Fred Ruiz, Vice Chair of the University of California Regents; Chancellor Drake; Representatives Loretta Sanchez and Alan Lowenthal; to the trustees and faculty -- thank you for this honor. And congratulations to the Class of 2014! (Applause.).
In your young lives, you've seen dizzying change, from terror attacks to economic turmoil; from Twitter to Tumblr. Some of your families have known tough times during the course of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. You're graduating into a still-healing job market, and some of you are carrying student loan debt that you're concerned about. And yet, your generation -- the most educated, the most diverse, the most tolerant, the most politically independent and the most digitally fluent in our history -- is also on record as being the most optimistic about our future.
And I'm here to tell you that you are right to be optimistic. (Applause.) You are right to be optimistic. Consider this: Since the time most of you graduated from high school, fewer Americans are at war. More have health insurance. More are graduating from college. Our businesses have added more than 9 million new jobs. The number of states where you're free to marry who you love has more than doubled. (Applause.) And that's just some of the progress that you've seen while you've been studying here at UC Irvine.
But we do face real challenges: Rebuilding the middle class and reversing inequality's rise. Reining in college costs. Protecting voting rights. Welcoming the immigrants and young dreamers who keep this country vibrant. Stemming the tide of violence that guns inflict on our schools. We've got some big challenges. And if you're fed a steady diet of cynicism that says nobody is trustworthy and nothing works, and there's no way we can actually address these problems, then the temptation is too just go it alone, to look after yourself and not participate in the larger project of achieving our best vision of America.
And I'm here to tell you, don't believe the cynicism. Guard against it. Don't buy into it. Today, I want to use one case study to show you that progress is possible and perseverance is critical. I want to show you how badly we need you -- both your individual voices and your collective efforts -- to give you the chance you seek to change the world, and maybe even save it.
I'm going to talk about one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces: the growing threat of a rapidly changing climate.
Just when you think the Koch brothers can't get any more active in their relentless anti-environment and anti-clean energy efforts, they do just that.
The energy initiative is being created under the umbrella of the largest Koch network nonprofit in apparent response to a number of developments: the commitment by liberal billionaire Tom Steyer to steer $100 million into ads in several states to make climate change a priority issue in the elections; numerous setbacks at the state level where Koch network backed advocacy groups have been fighting against renewable energy standards; and the new EPA regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
In an April 1 missive, [och fundraising honcho Kevin] Gentry invited Freedom Partners members to join an upcoming conference call about a "significant new Freedom Partners initiative" which he touted as one that would "drive the national narrative around energy and the tremendous benefits of reliable affordable energy for all Americans, especially for the less fortunate." The email indicated that discussions about the energy project began last summer at another Koch donor event in New Mexico, which drew outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Rep. Paul Ryan among others.
This looks good to me overall, at least on the surface (e.g, "Accelerating the development and use of renewable energy sources;" "Virginia can become a national leader in energy efficiency practices"; nothing about offshore oil drilling, thank goodness). Of course, how this all works out in the end will depend to a significant degree on who's appointed to the Council, and also how hard Gov. McAuliffe pushes to focus the group's efforts on a rapid transition towards clean energy.
P.S. Obviously, I'd ditch the part about expanding Virgniia coal exports. That's the exact opposite of what climate scientists tell us we need to be doing right now. And yes, I'll go with the scientists any day over the politicians and fossil fuel corporations. Go figure. ;)
Governor McAuliffe signed Executive Order #16 today, which establishes the Virginia Energy Council. The Virginia Energy Council will assist in the development and implementation of a cohesive, comprehensive, and aggressive energy strategy for Virginia and deliver recommendations for the Virginia Energy Plan, which will be submitted to the General Assembly on October 1, 2014.Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones will chair the Council.
Speaking about the executive order, Governor McAuliffe commented, “Virginia must develop an aggressive strategy to protect existing jobs in our energy industries while positioning the Commonwealth to be a leader in new energy technologies. An innovative energy strategy will enable us to attract the best businesses and entrepreneurs to Virginia, create more jobs in growing industries, and lead a 21stCentury Virginia economy. As we move forward with this process, the Virginia Energy Council will be an important partner as we work toward meeting our energy goals.”
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