Over the past several months the Evangelical Environmental Network has submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 334,530 comments from 202,068 pro-life Christians in support of reducing carbon pollution.
Here is one of their recent messages to the EPA:
As pro-life Christians, we urge the EPA to protect life and God's creation by reducing carbon pollution and toxic emissions from existing coal burning power plants. We ask the EPA to provide maximum flexibility to states as to how they will cut emissions, including options such as a pollution fee that could cut other taxes. It is time for our leaders to act for the sake of our children's health, the most vulnerable among us, and His beautiful creation.
Some may be surprised at this number of comments. After all, a recent poll once again confirms that "White evangelical Protestants are more likely than any other religious group to be climate change Skeptics."
"We have been able to reach and activate those considered unreachable by traditional environmentalists because we share their values and our actions are informed by those values," said the Rev. Mitch Hescox, EEN's President/CEO.
Forging a Bi-partisan Consensus on the Green Climate Fund:
Expressing Gratitude for the Leadership of President
Obama and Senators Graham and Corker
A Statement by the Rev. Mitch Hescox
President/CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network
There is a long tradition in our country of strong bi-partisan support for doing what is in our national interest and consistent with American values in the area of foreign relations. This has included helping poor countries with natural disasters, combating AIDS through President Bush's initiative, and tackling diseases like malaria.
In today's political climate, shaped by renewed isolationism in some quarters and our present economic recovery, keeping our country on the right track in providing such leadership is challenging.
That's why we are very grateful for the steadfast leadership provided by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bob Corker (R-TN) in their capacities as incoming Chairs of the most important Senate committees. Their job isn't easy or popular, and much of the time it's a thankless one. We offer our thanks to Senators Graham and Corker to begin to redress this "gratitude deficit."
If foreign relations funding in general is challenging, that for helping the poor in poor countries overcome climate change and create sustainable economic progress via clean energy is even more so. But such funding, known as "climate finance," also has had a tradition of bi-partisan support precisely because it is in our national interest and in keeping with American values.
Building upon the leadership of President George W. Bush on climate finance, President Obama is pledging that the United States will contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund. Such a contribution is consistent with the percentage of support the U.S. provides for natural disasters and AIDS work in relation to the contributions of other countries.
Just as we are grateful for the leadership of Senators Graham and Corker, so too are we thankful for the President's leadership for this proposed $3 billion in climate finance.
We stand ready to work with President Obama and Senators Graham and Corker to once again forge a bi-partisan consensus on funding to help the poor create prosperity powered by clean, decentralized, homegrown energy and build resilience against climate impacts, just like the Patriarch Joseph did in the Bible.
by Rev. Mitch Hescox
In my family we hug a lot. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, but what can I say, we're huggers. My wife Clare and I especially love it when our grandkids give us hugs.
My seven-year-old grandson runs into my arms to give me the biggest hug he can muster, and when I say, "I love you" he replies, "I love you more!" My three-year-old just jumps in my arms, plants a big wet kiss, and says, "Love you, Poppop!" The youngest, just 4 weeks old, simply looks at me when I hold and hug him.
My grandkids and their future immediately came home to me on Monday morning as I received a hug from a friend. It just happened to be at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the friend giving me the hug was the head of the EPA, Administrator Gina McCarthy. She did so immediately after she signed the proposed standards for reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants.
I've made no secret of the fact that Administrator McCarthy and I have a good working relationship. Our ministry at the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) has supported Administrator McCarthy and the EPA on a number of occasions. We worked hard to put the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards into effect because mercury harms the brains of our unborn and newly born children. We stood alongside EPA and others to support new fuel standards that would make cars more efficient and therefore reduce harmful air population linked in numerous medical studies to birth defects. And now, we are standing with the EPA for a proposed standard for reducing carbon pollution from the single largest source, electric power plants.
Administrator McCarthy and I make an odd couple. I'm an evangelical pro-life Christian and have been a registered Republican my entire life. McCarthy grew up with an Irish Catholic background and is a member of President Obama's cabinet "much more progressive. She's also a Red Sox fan while I support the Orioles.
However, what we have in common is so much greater than our differences. We love our kids and grandkids. Climate change is a serious threat to those we love and a tremendous opportunity for creating a better life for them via a clean energy economy. Following the leadership of our Risen Lord Jesus, we can work to provide an abundant life in tune with God's plan for humanity as caretakers for His world.
As a fiscal conservative, I would prefer a market based approach to reducing carbon. It is simply egregious that we put the costs of carbon pollution in our children lungs and brains while the profits are privatized. Simply put, the market has never realized the true cost of fossil fuels. As an example, we might like our neighbors and be thankful for ways that they helped us, but none of us would be happy with the same neighbors tossing their trash into our yards and expecting us to clean it up. That's exactly what has been happening with our fossil fuel use and it's time to act before it's too late.
Common sense and our own experience tells us it is better to act sooner to address a looming threat than to ignore it and wait until it's harder and more expensive. That's what economists tell us about climate change: act now or the costs both human and economic will escalate. With each year of delay, the costs multiply for addressing increased disease, sea-level rise, extreme weather, food scarcity, and resource conflicts.
It would be great to have a national discussion on the best policy approaches to address climate change, and as I've said, I think a market-based approach is best. But it's hard to have a discussion when one team refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem. Now there are many reasons that Republicans don't want to discuss climate science, but I believe it's time that we start to engage and I think most conservative policy makers agree, at least privately. A few months ago, during a private meeting, a leading Republican in U.S. House of Representatives said, "We all know we have to price carbon."
As a Republican, I am proud of my party's conservation legacy. Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol to save our ozone layer (and bought us some time in addressing climate). President George H.W. Bush revised the Clean Air Act and reduced acid rain. These basic protections did not significantly impact the economy, in fact, they produced a lot of co-benefits and spurred new industries.
My prayer is that people I respect, like Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell might lead a new discussion on addressing our environmental challenges. Perhaps we could share a pat on the back as well. For me, hugs celebrate not only the importance of love and life but a job well done.
We're not there yet. Addressing global warming will take all of us working together. So for the moment at least, I will keep hugging and praying for my grandkids, follow our Risen Lord, and help provide hope for a new future. Our kids, grandkids, and all God's children deserve the best from all of us.
The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is President/C.E.O. of the Evangelical Environmental Network and lives in New Freedom, PA.
In our current political moment many have given up on achieving anything big, like a "grand bargain" on the budget and deficit reduction (e.g. The New York Times recent editorial, "An End to the Grand-Bargain Charades"). The realism of incrementalism is back. A fatigue factor has set in after 3 years of political brinkmanship and paralysis. In this political climate, forget trying to find common ground with one's political adversaries to solve the big issues of the day.
Thing is, most of the big problems got big precisely because we've ignored them or given up trying to find common ground. And these issues are not going away. Thinking small isn't helpful, either. That's certainly true with one of the most divisive issues of our day, climate change.
As an evangelical Republican working on climate change, I know how hard it is to find common ground. Yet my own experience within the evangelical community is that shared values overcome polarization and working together is possible on big issues that matter to people's lives.
Recently I spoke at an event of religious leaders with senior White House and Administration officials to talk about overcoming climate change. I'll be searching for a way forward together, despite our differences, and I'm hopeful -- confident, even -- that such a way can be found.
My confidence rests on our shared values as expressed in our Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. From these American values can we create a vision of the future worthy of our past bequeathed to us by our forbearers, worthy of the love we have for our children, a vision big enough to inspire us once again to greatness?
Our Founding Fathers issued the Declaration of Independence and fought the American Revolution because tyranny threatened our values.
President Obama and I have found common ground in believing that we must declare our independence from another form of tyranny, global warming, and its threat to life, liberty, and happiness:
Life: While global warming's tyranny has and will threaten the lives of millions, the solutions we create will enhance the lives of billions.
Liberty: While global warming's cruelty has and will threaten the political and economic liberty of around the world, American ingenuity and can-do spirit will foster freedom through clean energy growth and the creation of new industries both here and abroad.
Happiness: While global warming tries to steal happiness from us in the misery it portends, a richer, deeper quality of life awaits us, one of deep fulfillment that comes from creating a better future for our children.
President Obama said recently, in announcing the start of creating new fuel economy standards for big trucks, that we should learn from past fuel economy efforts. The lesson? Don't make small plans, make big plans.
The President is exactly right. Global warming is a big challenge that creates an even bigger opportunity to overcome this tyranny and build a brighter future for our children.
We need to envision this future together. To get the conversation started, let me share what I believe our future can look like.
I see cleaner skies and purer water, healthy children free to enjoy the beauty of God's creation, their bodies not hindered by pollution, their brains not diminished by toxics. I see an economy that is the envy of the world producing the technologies that help us achieve life, liberty and happiness; plentiful, affordable energy to power our homes and vehicles and businesses, freeing up time to spend with family and loved ones, to rebuild community life, and to be creative with the gifts God has given each of us. I see such a life being made possible in the Majority World, where American technology creates clean energy and new industries that lift billions out of poverty and into prosperity.
Leaders of our past dared to think big -- Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Edison, Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs -- and achieved great things that make our lives better today. Let's be inspired by their example and not make the mistake of thinking small and achieving even less.
And so, strange as it may seem in our current moment of polarization and disillusionment, now is precisely the time to think big. Although it may seem that the big issues divide us, it's just as true that an issue like global warming has the potential to unite us and bring us together as we envision a brighter future based on our shared values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox is president of the Evangelical Environmental Network and lives in New Freedom, PA. Before leading EEN, Rev. Hescox pastored a local church for 18 years and previous to ministry worked in the coal and coal utility industries.
We should embrace higher fuel standards
Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012, 12:33 AM
By Patriot-News Op-Ed
By The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox and the Rev. Dr. Emilio Marrero
What's in your wallet? For many for us,what's not in our wallet is extra cash. And none of us wants to spend the extracash paying for gasoline. That's justone of the reasons we favor the new fuel economy standards soon to befinalized.
Vehicles that get better gas mileage will cost a bit more, it'strue, but the average family will still save from $6,000 to $8,000 through thelife of the vehicle. That's certainly good news for our wallets. About 45percent of our daily petroleum use goes toward driving our cars and lighttrucks " 3.1 billion barrels per year, the equivalent of 620 Gulf oil spills.Reducing oil consumption by more than 2.2 million barrels by 2025 and foreignimports sounds like a good idea to many.
This month, during a raucous Senate hearing, Sen. Jeff Sessions(R-Ala.) told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), "Fuel efficiency standards aresomething we can all agree on." Sen.Sessions got it right. Carmakers, autoworkers, retired military leaders,environmental organizations, more than 74 percent of the American public andfaith community leaders such as us are all rallying in support for new fueleconomy standards that will double fuel efficiency to 54.5 mpg by 2025.
A decade ago, the Rev. Jim Ball initiated one of the most coveredstories in 2002 " the "What Would Jesus Drive" educational campaign. WWJDrive focused on the moral implicationsfrom our love affair with the automobile and the need for more fuel-efficientvehicle choices.
Pollution pours out the tailpipes of our cars and threatens publichealth. Soot, smog, ozone-forming volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxideand carbon pollution contribute mightily to Pennsylvania's polluted air. Whilewe have made progress, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh still make the top 10 inworst particle pollution and the top 20 in ozone pollution.
Those living in south-central Pennsylvania who believe theybreathe easy should remember this: York, Dauphin and Lancaster countiesreceived failing or close to failing marks in pollution measurements providedby the American Lung Association's "Stateof the Air 2012" report.
Car and truck exhaust in medical study after study causesincreased asthma, more heart attacks and premature death. Research that is morerecent links autism and other serious threats to our unborn babies fromtransportation-related pollution. All in all, our love affair with the carmakes us sick, and better fuel efficiency reduces pollution and affords anopportunity for a healthy and abundant life.
In a year without winter and now drought, covering 63 percent ofthe United States, one cannot help to think of the weird extreme weather thatseems to be all too common these days.
Scientists seem to issue daily additional peer-reviewed studiesthat confirm our extreme weather results from a changing climate. The new fueleconomy standards limit vehicle carbon pollution. Through their lifetime, thesestandards will reduce carbon pollution significantly, enough to equal oneyear's worth from all sources at today's levels. Although only a beginning, thenew standard has us traveling on the right road in reducing climate-change pollution.
The standard will double fuel efficiency, save us money, reducedependence on foreign oil, reduce health threats, save lives and create jobs. It's good for all America.
Let's applaud these new standards and find more ways to work together and find solutions. We believe Jesus wants us to drive as good stewards of all creation.
© 2012 PennLive.com. Allrights reserved.
by Mitch Hescox & Alexei Laushkin
The hottest July on record, drought plaguing almost two-thirds of the US, and Arctic sea ice at historic low levels. God's creation needs a little good news and we just got it. US carbon pollution is declining with emissions at their lowest point in 20 years. With that the US has made deeper and faster cuts in carbon pollution emissions than any country in the world over the last 6 years. It's not enough to avert the moral challenges that are and will be associated with climate change, but it's a bigger start than anyone expected.
No one was predicting this, but like we've been saying all along the American entrepreneurial spirit drives change. Investment in natural gas, as a transition fuel, and with the soon to be released Fuel Economy Standards leading to cars that are more efficient, plus LEED building standards, and more sustainable products are putting us on the onramp to a clean fuel highway. Americans are tired of waste, wasteful spending and wasteful energy use.
What we need now is a comprehensive energy strategy, a roadmap that incentivizes renewable energy and home grown clean energy jobs. We need America to lead the clean energy market. Let's make America the center of a new revolution for industry instead of maintaining our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.
Natural gas puts us on the starting blocks for what will be a marathon toward a clean energy economy. Its' current cheap price makes for the perfect transition fuel for achieving our initial carbon pollution reductions and clean air goals. The EPA's proposed new standards for methane will mitigate most drilling and transportation leakage issues, but hydraulic fracturing remains a significant human health concern. Yet, there are simply too many unknowns to complete an informed safety judgment on fracturing. Simply put natural gas is part of the solution, but it can't be the only path toward our clean energy renaissance.
When we recover from our economic doldrums (which we will!), Americans have a fundamental choice to make. Will we make smart investments in clean home grown technology or will we rely on the same old fossil formulas?
We need a real investment in our clean energy manufacturing base and an energy policy that helps us solve the moral challenges of climate change. We're a can do people, a hopeful people. Americans are waiting to show the world that we can have free-prosperous societies that don't perpetuate pollution and undermine the livelihoods of others who rely on clean air, clean water, and a stable food supply to provide for their families.
Americans want fuel abundant, cheap, and clean. Until technological efficiencies can kick in we need to count the cost of our over reliance on pollution intensive energy.
Others will find a way to develop clean abundant energy; we believe America should get there first. If we can win the race for clean energy we will have provided for the next generation of Americans manufacturers and sent the signal that you can choose for democracy and freedom without undermining the ability to provide for your family. We can solve the challenges of our time while cherishing and protecting our freedoms. The dirty fossil economy spewed dangerous toxins polluting God's creation. Let's start a new race on a new road toward a clean energy future that provides a healthy environment for our children and our economy. Natural gas brought us to the starting line will we jump into the race to win or will this just be another false start?
Rev. Mitch Hescox is the President & CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network. Alexei Laushkin is the Senior Director of Communications for the Evangelical Environmental Network.
by Gary Bergel
Two weeks have passed since the Derecho, a rare land hurricane with shearing 60-90 mph "line winds" and violent thunderstorms, swept across the U.S. from Illinois and Indiana over the East Coast and out into the Atlantic. A reported 26 individuals lost their lives and over 4 million residences and businesses in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were left without electricity. In just a few minutes on Friday, June 29, "energy poverty" hit home with no advance warning. It was "lights out" and sweltering days of 90-100 degree heat for millions, including a number of us on the EEN team. Online power outage maps indicate that hundreds to thousands are still without power.
By 11:00 a.m. the morning after the Derecho passed, it was futile to look to buy a chain saw or generator in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. This was also true for many of the other areas that were hard hit. The frontal line wind of the Derecho (Spanish for "straight") snapped multitudes of old, massive trees in an instant taking down power lines and blocking roadways for days to come.
Neighbors came to the aid of neighbors. Fortunately we were able to transport water and a small inverter generator helped us salvage frozen food. Cell phone signals disappeared, often for hours at a time. A few inexpensive little solar garden walkway lights became our night-lights. We have become friends of solar.
In conversing with rural and city residents I discovered that most were unaware that over 1.4 billion of the earth's population have no access to electricity. Most were also unaware of the term "energy poverty." Without power and cooking on their grills, they could empathize a bit with the 3 billion or more people who must use non-renewable resources like wood, charcoal, and even dung and other waste for cooking and heating. Smoky kerosene lamps often provide some of the only light these people presently experience. Most of the world's people who live without electricity are poor.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shares often, most recently at the Rio+20 Summit that he grew up without electricity in his native South Korea, which was devastated by the 1950-1953 war. "I was studying under kerosene lamplight. Can you believe that? For exams I was permitted to use candles," he relays in his speeches. "Now I'm standing in front of you as the Secretary General of the United Nations. Access to modern energy transformed my world and my country. We need such a transformation possible for all people around the world." Ban Ki-moon stresses our need to move beyond dirty-burning fossil fuels and toward rapid implementation of clean, renewable energy sources. He and many see sustainable energy as a strategic way to lift the poor out of poverty. The UN General Assembly has declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
2012: The International Year of Sustainable Energy for All
An awakening is underway. More and more Christian leaders and pastors are beginning to rethink energy, to reevaluate energy sources, and are catching on to the ethics and benefits of clean sustainable energy. Prominent evangelical leader Charles Colson (1931-2012) brought forth the benefits of renewable energy in his January 3, 2012 Breakpoint radio broadcast. This was one of Colson's final words to the Church:
"This past August, the UN Secretary General touted renewal energy sources " like solar energy, wind power, and hydropower " as a means to help lift the poor out of poverty. And for once, I find myself agreeing with the United Nations. In Cambodia, for example, a typical kerosene lamp costs around $30 to light a home for a year - that's about 10 percent of what an average Cambodian earns each year. But solar lanterns only cost $25."
Chuck Colson then shared the story of Allen Rainey's discovery that solar energy was a lot more affordable for his 50 acres in rural Indiana than grid electricity. "As a follower of Christ, Rainey wasn't content to keep his discovery to himself," Chuck shared. Rainey launched SonLight Power and has gone on to install solar powered refrigerators in medical clinics, and complete solar systems expected to function for 30 years in orphanages, hospitals, and churches in Honduras, Kenya, Guatemala, Haiti, Equador, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Mexico.
Chuck Colson also pointed his Breakpoint followers to the work of Plant with Purpose and Food for the Hungry. He concluded by declaring:
"These examples demonstrate that instead of existing as two separate agendas, environmental sustainability and the fight to end poverty are inextricably linked.... We can and should do both at the same time."
We at the Evangelical Environmental Network/Creation Care wholeheartedly agree. We are grateful for Chuck Colson's wisdom and prophetic call to followers of Christ at this time. Please pray for us as materials are being compiled for a "Light Up the World / Light of the World" campaign that EEN and partnering ministries will launch this fall. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org to join the EEN Prayer Team and to be kept informed.
"...environmental sustainability and the fight to end poverty are inextricably linked...." Charles Colson, January 3, 2012
It's inexpensive and relatively easy to bring natural light and spiritual light to the 1.4 billion enduring darkness and a lack of clean energy. A solar study light like the one pictured below costs just a dollar or two on the front U.S. production end, and $10 on the foreign delivery end. Solar lanterns can light a home. Solar suitcase kits, pictured, are enabling doctors and surgeons to treat more patients and save lives at night.
Gidfay, a third grade student in Haiti and his three older sisters tried to do their homework before nightfall. Often, their hardworking parents could not afford to feed the family and also purchase kerosene for a lamp. World Vision provided the family with a single solar lamp. "This light brings me joy to read," Gidfay says. Education is seen as a way out of poverty and a door to a different future. "I pray to God every day for those who made it possible to study under this light. I like math and Creole," exclaims Gidfay.
This is a time for all of us to evaluate energy usage and efficiency in our homes, in our businesses, and in our local church and ministry facilities. This is an appointed time to share energy savings by bringing solar and other clean sustainable energy sources to our neighbors suffering energy poverty and pollution around the world.
by Mitch Hescox
On March 16, 2011, the EPA proposed the First National Standard for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants. This new national standard offers a historic opportunity for the evangelical Christian Church to put its preaching into action. Life, as sacred, has long been a foundational tenet of our faith. We are pro-life and have struggled long to protect the unborn from harm, especially abortion. Over 1,000,000 unborn children die each year from abortions. However, another great threat faces the unborn, mercury poisoning. Unborn children are the most at risk as they are developmentally unable to protect themselves.
According to research, at least 1 in 12, and as many as 1 in 6 women of childbearing age have unsafe levels of mercury in her blood, enough to put a baby at risk for brain damage, autism,and other neurological imparities. These effects are not just temporary but are irreversible. Other research depicts that mercury levels continue elevating in American women, putting more unborn at risk. Mercury easily transmits from mother to child. One UCLA research project found mercury in 30% of US females of childbearing age in 2006, up from only 2%of same age group in 1999. This threat to our unborn is simply not acceptable.
The primary domestic source of mercury comes from the burning of coal. Industrial and utility coal consumption represents at least 87% and as much as 99% of the mercury poisoning of the unborn. Smokestacks emit the mercury that then falls into our streams, lakes, and rivers. Fish consume the mercury we eat the fish and for pregnant mothers the contaminated fish finally accumulates in the weakest -- unborn children.
This isn't a limited problem. Mercury contaminates over 6 million acres of freshwater lakes, 46,000 miles of streams, and 225,000 wetland acres across the United States. The vast majority of our fresh water in every corner of America contains dangerous mercury levels. In fact, every state has some type of fish consumption advisory, including the recommendation for pregnant women not to eat any locally caught fish.
The Evangelical Environmental Network is putting action to our faith by standing in support of EPA's proposed standards limiting mercury and its threats to the unborn. The standard, twenty years in the making reduces 91% mercury released to the air. Some will attempt to weaken this proposed standard. However, unborn children deserve our greatest protection, and we believe the rule as proposed provides the best protection for the weakest in our society, the unborn child. This is an issue in life's sacredness. We encourage all who stand for life to stand with us and especially the unborn.
For more information, please visit www.creationcare.org/
by Jim Ball
In the summer of 2008 gas prices reached over $4 a gallon, helping to tip the economy into the Great Recession from which we are still recovering. Could we be heading towards $4 a gallon once again, this time helping to stall our still fragile recovery?
According to the federal government's Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average price for gas around the country was higher than any February in history even before the crises in Egypt and Lybia kicked in. Subsequently, gas prices during the last week alone jumping 20 cents a gallon.
One reason gas prices spiked in 08 was due to speculators, a situation that probably won't be repeated this year. However, unease in the Middle East has been driving prices upward, and no one can predict what the situation there will be when the summer driving season hits.
Even without such instability, EIA projects that prices will continue to rise. Looking even further out to 2012, a recent CEO of Shell, John Hofmeister, has predicted that gas could be over $5 a gallon in 2012. And secret State Department cables on WikiLeaks has revealed that even a senior Saudi official privately admits that Saudi reserves may have been overstated by as much as 40%, and that by 2012 his country could no longer be counted on to pump enough extra oil to keep prices from rising too high.
Meanwhile the current rise in gas prices threatens our recovery and is already having detrimental impacts on US consumers. According to an economic analyst at Moody's, if the price for a barrell of oil averages over $90 this year -- and EIA's projection even before the Middle East unrest was $93 -- it would erase a quarter of the $120 billion payroll tax cut recently enacted to further stimulate the economy.
As for consumers, the NYTimes reports:
Rising gasoline prices have already led Jayme Webb, an office manager at a recycling center in Sioux City,Iowa, and her husband, Ken, who works at Wal-Mart, to cutback on spending.
In the last month, they have canceled their satellite television subscription and their Internet service. They have also stopped driving from their home in rural Moville to Sioux City on weekends to see Ms. Webb's parents.
Along with making their commutes to work more expensive, rising oil prices have driven up the cost of food for animals and people. So the couple have stopped buying feed for their dozen sheep and goats and six chickens and instead asked neighboring farmers to let them use scraps from their corn fields.
"It's a struggle," said Ms. Webb, 49. "We have to watch every little penny."
Interestingly, in the same NYTimes article they interviewed an owner of a company that makes church pews:
"Revenue is down, costs are up, and you can't make anymoney," said R. Jerol Kivett, the owner of Kivett's Inc., a company that manufactures pews and other church furniture in Clinton, N.C. "You're just trying to meet payroll and keep people working, hoping the economy will turn. But it just seems like setback after setback after setback."
Given all of this, isn't it well past time we really started moving the country towards energy independence through increased fuel economy and the development of alternative fuels and electric vehicles powered by clean electricity?
Rising gas prices are bad news for most of us and the economy in general, but good news for oil companies because their profits go up. Indeed, the big 5 oil companies have done exceedingly well over the past decade, earning nearly $1 trillion in profit.
So here's an idea. Why not take the billions in subsidies we give to oil companies and use it instead to invest in efficiency, renewables, electric vehicles, and alternative fuels -- in a true transition towards energy independence, in other words? Certainly in an era of national debt and budget cutting some of the richest corporations in America don't need public assistance to incentivize them to find and produce oil when it's at $100 a barrel? Indeed, former President George W. Bush, a former oil man himself, proposed that the oil companies do without public assistance when oil was at $55 a barrel. So, surely, they don't need our subsidies when it's at $100 and they've earned nearly $1 trillion in profit in the last decade? Surely this rich and mature industry, which began receiving subsidies in 1916, is ready to be weaned off public assistance? Let's take the $36 billion they would receive this decade and create a better future with it, ok?
Well, unfortunately, House Republicans still think these rich oil companies need our tax dollars even as they cut funding for research that would help to create energy independence and a clean energy future (see my earlier blog). On Tuesday (Mar 1) every single House Republican (except for 4 who didn't vote) voted to keep the billions in public assistance/subsidies flowing out of the US Treasury and into the oil company's coffers. As they vote to protect public assistance for oil companies, they do so against the wishes of the American people, as reflected in a NBC/WSJ poll out this week showing 74% approval for eliminating these unnecessary subsidies.
With gas prices once again approaching $4 a gallon this summer and many families like the Webbs already struggling just to get by, the oil companies certainly don't need any more of our money. And it's well past time for us as a country to make real investments in energy independence and clean energy.
The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) is one of the most respected Senators in our country, and such respect is well-deserved. He has long toiled in areas that are vital to America's well-being yet don't get much attention or appreciation, such as his great work with former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) to secure the nuclear weapons programs of the former Soviet Union once the Cold War ended. These great efforts have helped to keep America and the rest of the world safe.
Continuing in the tradition of Senator-Statesman, Sen. Lugar gave an important speech at the Clean Economy Summit on how America can create a clean energy future and move towards energy independence. While we don't agree with everything Sen. Lugar said, there is much to appreciate in the speech.
One of his first important points is that while America has begun to wake up to what needs to happen, we have not yet begun to act in a serious and meaningful way:
"Although Americans and their leaders are embracing the idea of changing our energy destiny, we have not committed ourselves to the action steps required to achieve an alternative future ... If our economy is crippled by an oil embargo, if terrorists succeed in disrupting our oil lifeline, or if we slide into a war because oil wealth has emboldened anti-American regimes, it will not matter that before disaster struck, the American public and its leaders only began to gain an understanding of our vulnerability."
As the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
After noting that both President Bush and President Obama have failed to create a bold, bi-partisan approach to weaning us off our addiction to oil (as President Bush put it) and the creation of a clean energy future, Sen Lugar states:
"I believe it is possible to revitalize energy security as a bipartisan issue. To do this, the President and leaders in Congress should explore the most fertile ground for cooperation " overcoming U.S. oil dependence. There is little disagreement that our oil dependence is a major threat to our economy and security. A disruption of oil supplies due to war, political instability, terrorism, embargo or other causes is one of the most troubling and likely short-term threats to our economy. Rising gasoline prices give Americans a visible reminder of this on a weekly basis."
Sen Lugar wanted to see a clear statement to this effect in President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday. While the President didn't address oil dependence explicitly, he did put forward a goal of having 80% of America's electricity come from clean sources by 2035.
We agree with both President Obama's goal for a clean energy future and Sen. Lugar's goal of overcoming oil dependence. And when you look at the energy bill that Sen. Lugar introduced in the last Congress, his Practical Energy Plan, it has policies to do both, including one similar to the Clean Energy Standard that the President and others like Sen Lindsay Graham (R-SC) have been talking about.
(As an aside, Sen Lugar's bill from last year was actually called the "Practical Energy and Climate Plan," but in his speech on Monday he dropped the word "Climate." In his speech he was also critical of past efforts on climate. We'll agree to disagree and let bygones be bygones.)
Our question of Sen Lugar is this: who will bring along enough of his fellow Republicans to achieve these goals of overcoming oil dependence AND having 80% of our electricity come from clean energy sources?
Another question to Sen Lugar: will your Practical Energy Plan introduced in this Congress once again have a Clean Energy Standard?
We certainly hope so, and are ready to join Sen Lugar and the President to achieve both of these goals.
Sen. Lugar has achieved great things with little fanfare in his career. We hope both he and President Obama will work together on these vital goals, and that both will help to bring along their parties to do what's best for America.
Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations has done some quick crunching of the numbers to compare President Obama's goal of 80% of electricity coming from clean energy by 2035 announced last night in his State of the Union speech.
By Levi's calculation, this would generate more clean energy than last year's proposed legislation by Senators Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman (74% by 2035). It would also have carbon's price per ton at around $90 in 2035, which would be a healthy price signal.
If a Clean Energy Standard that achieved 80% by 2035 were to pass Congress this session (a very big if), it would be a major step forward in overcoming global warming and helping our country create a clean energy future. It's not all we need to be doing. But it would be very important.
Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Last night President Obama gave his State of the Union speech. His basic theme was summed up in this phrase: "The future is ours to win." He went on to say, "But to get there, we can't just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, 'The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.' Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age."
We were pleased to see that the first thing he said we needed to invest in as a country to win the future was clean energy. Here's an extended excerpt:
"This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -" (applause) -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
Already, we're seeing the promise of renewable energy. Robert and Gary Allen are brothers who run a small Michigan roofing company. After September 11th, they volunteered their best roofers to help repair the Pentagon. But half of their factory went unused, and the recession hit them hard. Today, with the help of a government loan, that empty space is being used to manufacture solar shingles that are being sold all across the country. In Robert's words, "We reinvented ourselves."
That's what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we've begun to reinvent our energy policy. We're not just handing out money. We're issuing a challenge. We're telling America's scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we'll fund the Apollo projects of our time.
At the California Institute of Technology, they're developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they're using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. (Applause.)
We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I'm asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don't know if -- I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own. (Laughter.) So instead of subsidizing yesterday's energy, let's invest in tomorrow's.
Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources. (Applause.)
Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen. (Applause.)"
The President's call to have 80% of our electricity come from clean energy sources by 2035 was a pleasant surprise. And we think paying for the innovation to get us there by using subsidies we currently give to oil companies is exactly right.
Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is Executive Vice President at EEN and author of Global Warming and the Risen LORD.
by Jim Ball
Politico is reporting that Carol Browner, President Obama's point person on energy and climate change, will soon be leaving the White House. That's unfortunate. We hope it doesn't signal a diminishment of the President's commitment to both clean energy and climate change.
We would like to publicly thank Ms. Browner for her service to our country these past few years (and again for her time as EPA Administrator during the Clinton Administration). While we didn't achieve the success we all wanted with the passage of a comprehensive climate and energy bill, Ms. Browner did her best in a difficult situation. She was always open to meeting with representatives from the religious community, and communicated our views to others within the Administration.
Again, we greatly appreciate Ms. Browner's service during this tour of duty in the White House, and we look forward to continuing to work with her in the future. We know she'll be continuing the fight.