The Green Shadow Cabinet said today that while President Obama’s call for the Environental Protection Agency to strengthen regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants was a long overdue step in the right direction, his “all of the above” approach to energy is still a disaster for the climate.
Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s 2012 presidential nominees noted, “You can’t give your child an ‘all of the above diet’ with toxic lead and arsenic, and think that adding some spinach and blueberries is going to make it OK. Likewise, reducing carbon pollution from coal does not make fracking, tar sands oil, deep water and Arctic drilling OK. The climate is spiraling into runaway warming. Obama’s promotion of cheap dirty fossil fuels makes coal regulations just window dressing on a disastrous policy.”
In addition to its broad concerns on fossil fuel use, the Cabinet strongly opposes the Obama administration’s continued push to revitalize the expensive, dangerous, nuclear power industry. The massive subsidies required by the nuclear industry siphon away funds needed to expand renewable energy. Nuclear power still has lethal, unsolvable, long term waste-storage problems. In addition, the White House’s proposed plants could not be built in time to have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
President Obama’s proposals fall far short of an urgently-needed Green New Deal to revive the American economy with clean, renewable energy. The Green New Deal would create 25 million jobs, particularly jobs that transition us to a carbon-free economy. It would be paid for through cuts to the military budget, elimination of the $40 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels and nukes, a Wall Street transaction tax yielding $100s of billions in revenue per year, and requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share.
As an example, a recent Stanford University report showed how NY could convert to 100% renewable energy by 2030 in a program that would create jobs and pay for the costs of conversion with health care savings alone. ( “Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight”, co-authored by Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson,)
The Cabinet also pointed to Germany’s energy transformation, (Energiewende), that shifts from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables. Thanks in large part to its Green Party, Germany will cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 40% relative to 1990 levels by 2020. By comparison, the goals set by President Obama translate to only a 4% cut in emissions – about one-tenth of the German commitment. The Cabinet also calls for a feed-in tariff program that Germany has used to create a vibrant renewable energy sector – benefitting small businesses, homeowners, farmers and communities – by insuring profitable rates for renewable power. This has helped fuel Germany’s vigorous economy, and put renewable energy technology on track to be the major employment sector in the nation within the decade.
To help put us on a similar path, the Green Shadow Cabinet calls for Congress to impose fees on the use of carbon. In addition, the federal government should also use its immense purchasing power to drive the development of clean renewable energy, conservation and efficiency.
EPA should accelerate and increase fuel efficiency standards. Under the Clean Air Act, it should phase out the use of HFCs and replace them with alternatives that protect the ozone layer without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Clean Water Act, it should set standards for acid pollution in water to reduce the negative impact carbon dioxide has on coral, plankton, shell fish and other marine animals. It should approve the petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to revise water quality criteria in light of new scientific information about ocean acidification, adopting a criterion for pH stating: “For marine waters, pH should not deviate measurably from naturally occurring pH levels as a result of absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide.”
The Cabinet challenged Obama’s escalating development of extreme fossil fuels that has been the major focus of “all of the above” – mountain top removal of coal, fracked oil and gas, deep water and Arctic drilling, and tar sands oil. The world already has five times as much oil, coal and gas available as climate scientists say the atmosphere can tolerate if global temperature rise is to stay below the internationally accepted limit of two degrees Celsius. So rather than drill for more fossil fuels, we must keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away safely underground to avoid a climate disaster. In order to achieve this, and protect the climate for everyone rather than corporate profits for a few, we need to consider making energy a democratically-controlled public utility, with a mission to take us from fossil fuels to renewables at least cost.
Steve Breyman, EPA Adminstrator for the Green Shadow Cabinet, noted that, “Obama’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy is unrealistic and cowardly. It’s overly expensive and unscientific. It ignores climate change and generates waste that remains dangerous for a thousand generations. Rather than face up to even a single powerful industry–nuclear, coal, oil, or gas–the President punted. Actually, he went golfing with fossil fuel company executives. We end up having to fight the Keystone XL pipeline, with the likelihood that the President will ultimately approve it, paving the way to full exploitation of the Canadian tar sands, a development called ‘game over’ for the climate by James Hansen.”
Breyman added that, “International leadership, a major theme of the President’s speech, is only possible when national policy is at the leading edge. Unfortunately, Obama has yet to match the carbon reduction policies we see in other countries, including China, the world’s other global warming superpower. The U.S. has been both the major contributor to climate change and the major denier of the need for action at both the domestic and international level. Enacting policies proposed by the Green Shadow Cabinet would put America in a good position to lead internationally.”
Stein concluded her comments by stating that, “The fact that 80% of climate warming has occurred since 1980 shows how this crisis is accelerating. We now have unprecedented storms, permanent drought (“megadrought”) in the American southwest, and just witnessed three major forest fires in California and Colorado in springtime that would normally happen only after a long hot dry summer. In short, we don’t have time for false assurance while climate catastrophe continues to escalate.“
“The American people understand that real progress on climate is urgently needed, and support this in poll after poll. The obstacle to progress is the American political establishment – bought and paid for by fossil fuel companies and closely allied Wall Street interests.” Obama himself was the third largest recipient of campaign donations from the oil and gas industry in the last election cycle, receiving more than $800,000.
“The question of the hour is not how to persuade the American people to do the right thing on climate. It’s how to force our hijacked political establishment to act in our interests – for the climate, and for our economy. Congress and the President continue to throw us under the bus on both counts, inflicting austerity on everyday people – cutting Medicare, social security, schools, etc. – while they squander trillions on wars, Wall Street bailouts and tax giveaways for the wealthy,” said Stein.
“We cannot wait to reclaim our children’s future – and our future. We must act now. If Obama won’t lead, the people will find a way to provide that leadership. It’s not the President’s legacy that’s at stake. It’s ours.”