When Congress shelved the Clean Energy Bill last week I’ll admit that for the first time during the Obama administration I felt discouraged. Let’s just set aside a little problem called global climate change, which if left unchecked will continue to change civilization as we know it. Let’s just talk pure electoral politics.
On July 5th, the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, reported that Democrats are planning on winning in 2010 by spending millions to mobilize the Obama 2008 electoral coalition of young people and communities of color, while doing reasonably well among white voters. The challenge is that although this was a great plan for a big turnout Presidential year, it has historically proven to be very difficult to pull off in midterm elections. The reality is that turnout among these groups typically drops precipitously in non Presidential election years. Therefore, any strategy that depends on breaking these historical trends has to be connected to a clear and motivating agenda these voters care deeply about. This is where the inability to pass a clean energy bill makes absolutely no sense.
Major international studies and domestic polling show that protecting the environment and addressing climate change is one of the most important issues to young people. Polls going back to 2002 have shown that communities of color care more about environmental protection then the population at large.
And polling recently conducted in four Oregon counties by the OLCV Education Fund showed that residents strongly support and want to see the Legislature work to creating clean energy jobs in their region. In other words, the dots are not being connected where they should be. And once again, the conventional wisdom inside the Beltway that the smart political move is to avoid clean energy legislation is bollocks.
With that rant aside, the reality is that Oregon’s political leadership - at all levels of government - get it. The failure of the federal clean energy bill in the Senate came despite the major efforts of Senators Wyden and Merkley to get it done. And we can thank Congressman Schrader, Blumenauer, Defazio and Wu for passing the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill through the House last year. When you add this all up, there's no question that it is imperative for all of us who care about clean energy and stopping climate change to work our tails off this fall. Let’s run down the ballot –
US Senator Ron Wyden has been a champion for clean energy jobs, and last year, after years of work with Congressman Blumenauer, finally pushed the historic Mt. Hood Wilderness protection bill through the Senate. There is a reason that Ron Wyden continues to be one of Oregon's most respected and liked public officials - he consistently fights to do what is right, not what is easy.
In John Kitzhaber we have a chance to elect the strongest environmental Governor since Tom McCall. With Kitzhaber’s proven record of protecting Oregon’s environmental legacy and building a thriving economy, just imagine what he will be able to accomplish with strong Legislative leaders to work with.
Congressman Kurt Schrader is one of the freshmen of the year. In his first term, he cast a gutsy vote for the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill and pushed a bill through to protect the Molalla River. He also led the effort to bring the NOAA research fleet to Newport, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development to the coast.
Congressmen Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and David Wu continue to be champions for balanced growth, livable communities, improved transportation and clean energy jobs.
The last two sessions of the Oregon Legislature have been the two best pro-environment sessions since the 1970s including investing hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy development, which continue to create clean energy jobs across Oregon.
In 2010 we need to think local. National politicians may not get it, but our leaders in Oregon sure do. They continue to fight, day after day/week after week, to be part of the solution. If you care about protecting the natural legacy of Oregon. If you care about creating jobs through renewable energy produced in America. If you care about continuing to make progress then the only conclusion you can reach is that 2010 is one of the most important local elections in our history.