The Latest National Sierra Club News
Here are the latest stories from The Compass, our RSS ticker of current national Sierra Club news:
Responding to what they called “a pattern of labor abuses by Nissan against its predominantly African-American workforce in Mississippi," last week Nissan workers filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board seeking a union election at the company’s Canton plant—one of only three Nissan facilities in the world, including two in Tennessee, where workers are not represented by a union.
Nissan employees’ move to form a union comes four months after the historic “March on Mississippi,” when former Sierra Club President Aaron Mair joined more than 5,000 workers and civil-right activists in demanding that the company respect workers’ rights. The march was the largest civil rights march in Mississippi since the height of the civil rights movement.
According to the UAW, the union the workers are seeking to have represent them, the company responded to the march by escalating its anti-union campaign of threats and intimidation.
Many workers in Canton make less than $15 an hour and report that they are in many cases forced to work for years as temporary employees and are denied vacation, health, sick time benefits – or any sort of upward mobility.
Nissan makes the LEAF, an excellent electric vehicle, and in some ways the company has been a global leader in the move towards cleaner vehicles. But as Aaron Mair pointed out at the march, we can’t transition to a clean future on the backs of working people. Nissan is one of a number of foreign companies whose global workforces have union representation, but have chosen to base new manufacturing in so-called “right to work” states in the American south, where union organizing is extraordinarily difficult. As Hal Myerson pointed out in a recent article,
in their home countries, [Nissan and other European and Asian firms]...pay high wages andare entirely and harmoniously unionized. In going to the South, however, they [pay] wagesand provid[e] benefits well beneath those that such firms as General Motors and Ford offertheir employees, and block workers’ attempts to unionize. They come to sell to theAmerican market and they come because the labor is cheap.
All but three of the former slave states of the south enacted so-called “right to work” legislation during the Jim Crow era. These laws, which forbid union membership as a condition of employment, have been steeped in the ideology of white supremacy since their inception. Early anti-union “right to work” efforts employed a rhetoric of racial slurs and stereotypes, and the nation’s first “right to work” campaign, in Texas, was closely associated with that state’s Ku Klux Klan. The institutionalization of these values through so-called “right to work” and voter suppression laws is now spreading from the south to the industrial heartland.
Mair and others argue that appealing to white supremacy to degrade workplace democracy is all about maintaining the power of moneyed interests over working people of all races. The environmental movement has a very real interest in making sure our clean economy corporate champions don’t use racial inequality to support the pursuit of profits at the expense of democratic rights. We simply can’t separate the degradation of the environment or the fruits of the clean energy economy from the exploitation of people based on race and class.
In a recent speech to the Texas AFL-CIO, Aaron Mair reminded attendees that the roots of the labor movement were grounded in organizing against slave labor. Mair said the labor movement is essential for workplace democracy, and workplace democracy is a prerequisite for political democracy.
Environmental protections, and an equal seat at the negotiating table, go hand in hand to create a safe environment and a just workplace.
Dean Hubbard From Compass
I’m sure you’ve heard some iteration of this story a million times: hopeful activist comes to DC ready to make change and by the time they leave, they are a hopeless cynic with no faith in the American government. I arrived in DC and attended a Gender Equity and Environment Activist workshop at the Sierra Club, where youth activists from all over the country came to learn about gender equity and the environment from speakers as well as each other, and then lobby about these issues in congress. I too was hopeful and ready to make change. But, unlike the trope, I left the workshop with more optimism and faith in my peers, organizations and yes, even politicians, than I started with.
Sara with other training attendees at the U.S. capitol.
I attend a small, private, mostly STEM-focused college, and here, trying to get people to care about politics feels like pulling teeth. But being dropped into a pool, even briefly, of people who, not only care about politics, but are devoting their lives to making positive political change was an amazing experience. Gender and the environment is still a relatively obscure intersection, and yet these activists have written papers, led community projects, and started organizations surrounding the topic. Being passionate about a subject like this can be an uphill battle and getting a chance to be around others fighting the same battle was beyond inspiring.
Even though I came out feeling validated, the workshop was by no means an echo chamber. There were people from all different backgrounds and all different identities: mothers, students, women, men, LGBTQ, and so on. Every activist saw the subject differently and brought their own experiences to it, because in the end, this intersection is about people. In DC, it’s easy to get wrapped up in bureaucracy and statistics, but meeting these other activists added humanity to my work and reminded me that it is not to be done alone.
They say money talks, but I think in today’s political climate, money screams and throws temper tantrums. And sometimes, it really feels like all of that money is in the wrong hands. But, throughout the activist training we heard speakers who were part of companies and organizations that are helping place money in the right hands. We heard speakers from environmental organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Defenders of Wildlife, and the Sierra Club. All of these organizations are not only doing their best to help the earth but also are trying to help the people through the expansion of equity and justice programs. This is a huge step forward from the environmental movement's flawed past.
On the less traditional side, we heard a speaker from Solar Sister, a non-profit that helps women in rural Africa become entrepreneurs by selling solar lights. Oppression and poverty go hand and hand, but so does the dependence that often comes with traditional methods of helping those in need. This method gives these women a path to financial security in conjunction with autonomy and power they had previously lacked. This is just one example of the intersectional, multifaceted ways people are using money for good. You may not be able to fight fire with fire, but this activist training taught me you can fight a lot of bad money with a little bit of good money and a lot of passion.
Now, this one might be a tough sale, but lobbying really did make me more optimistic about our political system. We went in with two asks. One was to tell House Representatives to cosponsor a resolution that would recognize gender as a factor in environmental efforts, and the other ask was to tell our Congress members not to cut funding for the EPA. Going in, we had meetings we knew would be easy, where the Representative was a known Sierra Club ally. Giving our Representatives more reasons to care and more political ammunition through personal stories is incredibly important. I told my Representative stories about the EPA funded community center I grew up next to, and now my Representative can better understand what cuts to the EPA might actually mean to the communities he represents. Then we had some more moderate Democrats, which were some of my favorites. There are politicians who are paying attention and fighting back.
Finally, we had a meeting with my favorite congressman, Cory Gardner, the Republican Senator from Colorado who has a League of Conservation Voter Score of a measly 11%. Now, Senator Gardner talks big on conservation and the environment, but has a voting record that would appall even the most casual environmentalist. Before we met with him, we did thorough research, finding quotes from his website and directly cross checking them with his voter record. And, although it may not make any huge long term difference, there was nothing more satisfying than calling Gardner out and watching his environmental staffer stumble over himself trying to defend the Senator. It was a great reminder that I’m his boss, and in the end, all members of Congress, have to answer to their constituents. So go out there and make them answer to you.
I know doubt in our political system is at an all time high. I see it from my peers when they refuse to vote, or write in Noam Chomsky or Burnt Toast for president. I see it in activists in the form of empathy fatigue. And, believe me, after the 2016 election, I’ve been there. I’m so glad I’ve been able to find places like this activist workshop and the Sierra Club that have rekindled my passion and confidence in politics and my ability to change that which is unacceptable. I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but you really can make a difference.Sara Graves From Compass
When PresidentTrump announced his withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, he talked about representing "Pittsburgh, not Paris." But what he didn't realize is that the city of Pittsburgh, like the majority of Americans in every state, supports climate action and the Paris climate agreement. Pittsburgh residents want clean energy and clean transportation. In fact, the city just announced its commitment to 100 percent clean energy and is currently looking into greening its public transit with zero-emission electric buses.
But it's not just cities that can fight back against Trump's policies and protect our planet. Pittsburgh residents, and people all over, can take a stand for climate action by urging our cities to take "Ready for 100" percent clean energy action -- by installing rooftop solar or switching to cleaner transportation choices, such as biking or driving an electric car.
A fully electric vehicle (EV) uses electricity to power a battery. This means no gasoline, no dirty oil changes, and no internal combustion engine. Most new fully electric vehicles can drive 70 to 100 miles on one charge. New models coming out this year will go farther than 200 miles between charges. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles run on electricity for a certain number of miles and, as the battery runs out of charge, a gasoline-powered engine or generator kicks in.Today's electric vehicles are as clean as a gasoline car that gets 73 miles to the gallon.
Electric vehicles are cleaner than ever. No matter where you live, even factoring in the emissions associated with electricity used to charge EVs, these cars are significantly cleaner than conventional vehicles. With more and more cities pledging to go all-in on clean energy, EVs will only get cleaner over time as we shift to more renewable sources of power.
Passenger cars drive America's oil consumption, accounting for 45 percent of oil used in the United States. At the same time, oil consumption accounts for more than 40 percent of greenhouse gas pollution. The largest sources of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions include passenger cars and light-duty trucks, such as SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and sedans. These emissions are from both the vehicle tailpipes and the "upstream" emissions from extracting, refining, and transporting the oil to our vehicles. While our cars have been part of our climate problem, clean electric vehicles can be part of the solution.
On average, today's electric vehicles are as clean as a gasoline car that gets 73 miles to the gallon. To find out just how much cleaner an EV is in your state, enter your zip code here.
This piece origionally appeared on Vice Impact.Gina Coplon-Newfield From Compass
If you think the only way to drive electric is to buy electric, then think again. From ride sharing to car sharing, and short-term rentals to typical rental cars, the auto industry is making it easier for those without their own set of wheels to drive -- or ride -- electric.
Following President Trump's announcement of his intention to pull the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, Lyft announced that to drive climate action and electric vehicle use forward, its shared platform will provide at least 1 billion rides per year using electric autonomous vehicles by 2025. All of the autonomous vehicles on Lyft's platform will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy beginning with its nuTonomy vehicles in Boston, which will debut later this year. This initiative will make huge steps toward cleaning up the U.S. transportation sector. It is estimated to provide at least 1 billion rides per year and will reduce CO2 emissions by at least 5 million tons per year by the year 2025.
This isn't Lyft's first announcement of its plans to switch to clean, green, electric autonomous vehicles. In December, Lyft and General Motors (GM) announced that in 2018 they will deploy the largest test fleet of autonomous electric vehicles using a specially equipped version of the Chevy Bolt. Not only is GM providing Lyft with short-term rental vehicles, but they are jointly developing an autonomous vehicle ride-sharing service.
GM currently has no plans to sell its autonomous Bolt --the Bolt AV -- to customers. Michael Abelson from GM explains, "If you assume the cost… will be six figures, there aren't very many retail customers that are willing to go out and spend that kind of money… But even at that sort of cost, with a ride-sharing platform, you can build a business." GM also announced that its own car-sharing service, Maven, will add 100 Bolt EVs to its Los Angeles fleet, with plans to expand the Bolt into both the San Francisco and San Diego areas. GM's competitors, such as Ford, are also working on providing autonomous ride-share vehicles.
In 2015, more than 35,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents. Many people view autonomous vehicles as a solution to human errors, like distracted driving from eating, talking on the phone, or even road rage. Autonomous cars give people the freedom to text, call, or apply makeup while riding, all without the risks of distracted driving. They even provide greater mobility options for people with disabilities who are unable to drive. Because all of the cars in these fleets could come with a plug, self-driving cars could accelerate us toward clean transportation. This is because electric vehicles, no matter the energy source, emit significantly less carbon dioxide pollution than do conventional vehicles. And as we transition to clean energy sources like wind and solar, electric vehicles get even cleaner. However, we need to make sure that autonomous vehicles are indeed electric and that AV policies are designed to reduce, rather than increase, vehicle miles traveled.
While Lyft will have the largest autonomous fully electric test fleet, there are several other local electric ride-sharing initiatives. In April, Uber launched its first electric initiative in Portland, with the goal of making 10 percent of its fleet electric by 2019. WaiveCar, an all-electric vehicle ride-sharing platform, has partnered with Hyundai to offer several free rides in its new all-electric model, the Hyundai IONIQ. With these tests and initiatives in action, we may be seeing electric vehicles dominate ride-share programs in the near future.
Car-sharing companies like ZipCar and Car2Go are also looking to plug-in to clean transportation. These short-term rentals now offer a variety of electric and hybrid vehicles. With hybrids in its fleet as early as the year 2000, ZipCar had some of the earliest ones on the market and has been increasing its number of plug-in hybrid options over the years. Meanwhile, other car-share companies are stepping up and are now offering electric vehicle car-sharing. City Car Share powered by Carma in the San Francisco Bay Area has one of the greenest car-sharing fleets. Not only is fifty percent of its fleet hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric, but they are also adding 16 more electric vehicles that are designed by artist, Zio Zielger. BMW is also bringing electric cars to Portland, Seattle, and Brooklyn, with ReachNow, its car-sharing program, which offers its electric BMW i3 as an option.
Hertz on Demand has gradually been adding electric vehicles as an option for its customers at several of its locations, from Connecticut to San Antonio. However, if you're like me, you've found it difficult to rent a hybrid, let alone an electric, vehicle from a traditional rental car company in the U.S. Modeled after AutoLib in Paris, BlueIndy brought this type of model to Indianapolis. With more than 2,000 members, BlueIndy users have taken more than 21,000 trips -- mainly to and from the airport. Los Angeles recently launched an EV car-sharing program for low-income communities, bringing access to clean transportation to communities that generally must go without.
Ride-sharing and car-sharing structures may soon dominate the road. Their cooperation is essential to make moves toward cleaner transportation nationwide. These platforms, if designed smartly in concert with public policy, can reduce individual car ownership and take more cars off the road. But these systems don't necessarily reduce congestion, incentivize people to use public transit, or cut down on the overall number of miles driven, nor do they reduce the amount of pollution being produced by conventional vehicles stuck behind ride-share vehicles in traffic. Lots of work is needed to get all of this right. However, Lyft's commitment to provide around 1 billion of its rides using electric vehicles signifies a big step in the industry in the right direction.
Alexandra Dobell, an intern at the Sierra Club, contributed to this article.
This piece origionally appeared on Vice Impact.Gina Coplon-Newfield From Compass
Good news and real leadership are here, just when we need them most, as a massive trillion-ton iceberg breaks away from the Larsen ice sheet in Antarctica and an apocalyptic viral climate article in New York Magazine captivates (and terrifies) the internet. Today, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown announced “America’s Pledge,” a plan for cities and states to lead the way on cutting climate pollution 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
By reaching that target, the US will meet our nation’s commitment for reducing climate pollution that we set at climate talks in Paris in 2015. The dismay amongst Americans and people around the world continues after Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and his increased climate action isolation at last weekend’s G-20 meeting. This new pledge shows a pathway for the US to meet the agreement regardless of his decision.
That historically bad move by Trump has ceded U.S. leadership on fighting climate disruption to other countries, and has even caused some to refer to the global alliance of powers as the G-19, signaling our lack of leadership on the world stage as humanity faces an unprecedented threat. The lack of leadership by Trump on climate has inspired cities across the U.S. to pass their own resolutions supporting the Paris Agreement, and now there’s even more they can do to counter Trump’s inaction.
Over the coming months, California Governor Jerry Brown’s Administration will join with Bloomberg Philanthropies (which supports the Sierra Club) and partners to calculate the collective climate action potential of U.S. states, cities, businesses, universities and others – thousands of which have already committed themselves to cut emissions – and submit that progress to the United Nations. This will further inspire others to join, keeping the U.S. as a global leader in reducing climate pollution. The Sierra Club’s work in the Beyond Coal Campaign to replace coal plants with renewable energy will be an important engine of that progress, and our Ready For 100 Campaign will continue securing commitments to 100 percent clean energy from more mayors and cities.
“The American government may have pulled out of the Paris Agreement, but American society remains committed to it — and we will redouble our efforts to achieve its goals,” said Michael Bloomberg.
But we’re not letting the Trump administration off the hook. America’s Pledge is not intended as substitute for U.S. federal government responsibility for climate policy and action. Rather, the pledge aims to quantify, communicate and encourage climate action in the United States, as participants across the U.S. find new ways to work with the international community and interact with international climate policy processes.
Climate action will continue to happen in the U.S. thanks to action by cities, states, businesses, and grassroots advocates, including the Sierra Club and our Beyond Coal and Ready For 100 Campaigns. Together we will continue to make a difference via “America’s Pledge,” which will help fill the gap and keep climate action and the Paris Agreement process on track through these next few turbulent years.Mary Anne Hitt From Compass
These three truths became well known to Mississippians put on the hook for the so-called Kemper “clean coal” gasification experiment. Touted as the flagship for the future of coal, and backed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the heavy-hitter utility, Southern Company, what could go wrong? As many predicted from the very beginning, costs soon spiraled out of control; what started out with a $1.8 billion price tag ended up at $7.5 billion plus, giving Kemper the dubious distinction of being the most expensive power plant ever built in the United States.
For comparison, $7.5 billion, which works out to about $40,000 per Mississippi Power customer, could have installed solar panels plus batteries for every one of the utility’s 150,000 residential customers.
Years behind schedule, the plant has yet to run as advertised.
This past week, the newly elected Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) stepped in and “pulled the plug” on Southern Company’s big bet gone bad, putting an end to any further attempts to continue to throw good money after bad.
This bold decision by the MPSC to shut down this eight-year fiasco, ends this long-running nightmare for Mississippi families and businesses who faced the burden of debilitating electric rate increases to pay for Southern Companies bad business decisions. The MPSC made good on their pledge to get control of this boondoggle despite tremendous political pressure from the clean coal narrative.
As part of the Sierra Club’s legal challenge of Kemper, we provided the catalyst to pave the way toward a clean energy future for Mississippians. The road to stop Southern Company’s gouging of customers with the Kemper coal plant was long, and Mississippians have fought the misguided attempts to tie their future to an unnecessary, expensive and dirty power plant for more than a decade. In the time that Southern Company fought to maintain the viability of the Kemper coal plant, the country’s energy landscape changed dramatically. Renewable energy is employing hundreds of thousands of workers, and it’s powering millions of homes affordably with prices continuing to drop.
Southern Company and its subsidiary Mississippi Power did a disservice to its customers and to Mississippi by wasting their time and money on the Kemper coal plant boondoggle. Mississippians, however, haven’t missed a beat, and have been fighting hard at the MPSC during this time to expand access to clean energy in Mississippi.
In the past two years, the MPSC adopted net-metering rules for the first time to allow solar customers credit on their electricity bills for power they provide on the grid. Before approving the net-metering plan, customers with solar panels that wanted to sell power back to the grid were being charged an administrative fee of $15.19 a month by Mississippi power. This rule includes a low income incentive to afford all Mississippians the opportunity to invest in a clean energy future.
The Commission’s leadership on renewable energy has further netted a proposal to bring enough Texas wind energy to the state to power thousands of homes and businesses. Approval from the commission on 105-MW utility-scale solar projects in Mississippi Power territory, would not only account for possibly the largest installations in the state when complete but actively replaces fossil fuels and moves Mississippi toward a sustainable clean energy future.
The MPSC has also established an ambitious Energy Efficiency Docket that will help Mississippi residents save energy and save money and move Mississippi forward for energy conservation in Mississippi. Even Mississippi Power has seen the light, having just cut the ribbon on the largest solar complex built to date and with more to come.
The Sierra Club will continue to build upon this momentum to move Mississippi towards a 21st century clean energy economy and remain vigilant to ensure no community has to repeat the mistakes of the Dirty, Expensive, Unnecessary, Kemper boondoggle.Louie Miller From Compass
In the latest sign that the White House intends to use trade policy to fill the pockets of corporate polluters, Donald Trump has pushed the theme of American energy “dominance” via a massive build out of fossil fuels exports. The fight to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is more urgent than ever, not only for clean air, water, climate, and jobs, but also for healthy communities everywhere, working people across borders, and environmental justice for all.
A couple weeks ago, we described four ways that Trump could make NAFTA worse. Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that Trump is barreling down on a self-serving corporate agenda written by Big Oil and Wall Street. In fact, just days after the American Petroleum Institute (API) submitted its own recommendations to preserve and expand North America’s fossil fuel dependency, Energy Secretary Rick Perry (a former board member of Energy Transfers Partners, the builder of four gas pipelines along US-Mexico border), reiterated API’s push to use NAFTA as a means for creating a “North American energy strategy” chained to the fossil fuel past.
Fossil fuel executives are so confident in their ties to the Trump Administration that Steven Pruett, chief executive of Eleven Resources, a Texas oil and gas company, openly spoke of how his NAFTA strategy is to simply “reach out to our own Texan, Rick Perry, and bend his ear.” It appears that Trump can rail against NAFTA all he likes from the teleprompter until he hears how much profit he can make for his oil industry friends. Rather than undermining the real clean energy revolution driving job growth nationwide, we demand a new approach to trade that supports the people and the planet.
NAFTA has already profited Chevron and Exxon Mobil at too great a cost to the rest of us. If we are going to have any chance at building the future we need, we will need all hands on deck to stop Trump Trade. We can’t afford a NAFTA 2.0 that builds pipelines across a racist border wall, threatens more of our public and ancestral lands and waters with extraction, and abandons a just transition to a stable climate and a new economy that works for all of us.
We are the movement that defeated the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and we are many. The Sierra Club and our allies and supporters just submitted over 50,000 comments calling for the elimination of the investor-state dispute settlement system (ISDS), protecting buy local and buy green procurement policies, and implementing strong and enforceable environmental and labor standards. We’ll know by July 17th the full extent of Trump’s priorities before negotiations begin in late August, which means now is the critical moment to define our new shared vision for trade justice. I believe that we will win - but only if you join us and take action today.Anthony Torres From Compass
As world leaders prepare to convene in Hamburg, Germany, later this week for the annual G20 summit, it is clear that climate is set to be a key issue. But with the Paris Agreement at the forefront of the world’s stage, how do the energy investments of the G20 countries align with their international climate commitments?
The short answer: Countries need to transition their financing away from outdated fossil fuels and toward the clean energy economy.
Even if we were to stop mining all coal worldwide right now, burning the remaining oil and gas reserves that are already operating would push climate disruption above 1.5°C. Exploiting all the reserves in existing fossil fuel fields and mines, without ever opening new ones, would cause global temperatures to rise well above 2°C. Yet despite signing the Paris Agreement and committing to the intention of keeping global temperatures below 1.5°C, G20 countries continue to provide $71.8 billion in public finance to support overseas fossil fuels, according to a new report from the Sierra Club, Oil Change International, Friends of the Earth U.S., and WWF European Policy Office (Talk Is Cheap: How G20 Governments Are Financing Climate Disaster). These corporate handouts include sweetheart loans, guarantees, and other forms of preferential financing. This represents only a piece of their support for dirty energy and does not include domestic fossil fuel subsidies.
The report found that G20 governments are providing nearly four times more public finance for fossil fuels than for clean energy. With the G20 summit set to kick off later this week and President Trump recently announcing plans to renege on its climate commitment, it is imperative that the remaining G20 nations step up and meet their pledge to avert the climate crisis by moving all public finance out of fossil fuels once and for all.
Using public money to support fossil fuels instead of clean energy isn’t just bad for the climate, it’s disastrous for the economy. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates that the growing clean energy sector employed 8.1 million people worldwide in 2015, a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Here in the U.S., analysis of U.S. Department of Energy jobs data shows that clean energy jobs outnumber all fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1, and they outnumber all jobs in coal and gas by 5 to 1.
If governments want to support jobs, they needs to invest in clean energy, not fossil fuels.
Clean energy is the future. Nowhere is that more apparent than in India, where solar is already underbidding coal. As the cost of renewables continues to plummet, clean energy will continue to push outdated fossil fuel technology to the side. However, instead of financing the clean energy revolution, the U.S. is wasting around $6 billion annually in public finance to prop up coal, oil, and gas, compared with a paltry $1.3 billion annually for clean energy.
But on the other hand, among G20 countries, Japan—long known as a laggard on climate—is the number-one public financier of fossil fuels, dumping $16.5 billion into dirty, outdated energy every year. But, as we’re seeing more and more, countries are showing that a different path is possible. Both France and Mexico, for example, devote more public finance to clean energy than fossil fuels.
By abandoning its responsibilities and commitments on climate, the U.S. government under Donald Trump has lost its credibility on the international stage. But Trump does not have the final say on the Paris Agreement or the planet. The economic drivers that are slashing the cost of renewables and making clean energy the clear choice for both the economy and the climate will only accelerate. When G20 leaders convene in Hamburg, they must look to the future and recommit not only to the Paris Agreement but also to making their public-finance decisions match their climate ambitions. It will then be up to the U.S. to catch up or be left behind.Nicole Ghio From Compass
You’ll have to forgive anyone but the closest observers of the energy and environmental worlds if they didn’t realize this was Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed “energy week.” Alas, the and its fossil fuel allies. Blink and you might have missed it. Trump’s handful of tweets and a brief, bare-bones speech betraying his shallow understanding of energy policy were clearly overshadowed by his attacks on the media and—in the energy world—easily countered by the news of more growth in the clean energy economy and an increased transition away from fossil fuels.
Let’s check in on Twitter to see how Trump’s crystal clear focus on energy was received:
Meanwhile, in the real world, stories have been rolling in from across the country about the transition from coal to clean energy.
In the West, Pacificorp is moving forward with a 20-year plan that reduces its use of coal-fired power while expanding investments in wind energy. The utility, which serves six western states, has proposed spending $3.5 billion on a plan to add 1,100 megawatts of new wind energy—mostly in Wyoming—as well as a new transmission line. Local outlet, KUOW, has the best headline we've seen, "PacifiCorp Looks To Expand Wind Energy As Coal Plants Retire."
Pacificorp wasn't the only wind proponent to push back against Trump recently. During a recent speech in Iowa, Trump made disparaging comments about wind power, which ironically powers more than a third of the Hawkeye state and employs 8,000 Iowans. His comments created an immediate backlash from the state's wind industry, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and the American Wind Energy Association's president, Tom Kiernan.
It isn't just Iowa and Pacificorp that have ignored Trump's call for more fossil fuels, either. Recent news coverage shows that big, multinational companies are the biggest drivers of clean energy development. Last year, for example, nearly 40 percent of U.S. wind contracts were signed by corporate power users, along with university and military customers. That's up from just 5 percent in 2013. These users also accounted for an unprecedented 10 percent of the market for large-scale solar projects in 2016. Research shows that this trend is set to continue.
In the meantime, clean energy deals and coal plants retirements (and curtailments) have continued unabated since the beginning of the month. For example, Sibley coal power plant in Missouri announced its closure by 2018, Minnesota's second major solar project began its operations, and mayors across the country continued to join the #WeAreStillIn movement at the annual United States Conference of Mayors.
Not to mention, as the Washington Post notes:
This past Saturday, former Sierra Club President Aaron Mair spoke at the Texas AFL-CIO Constitutional Convention, before an audience of over 400 union members, including many who work in the oil and gas industries. Environmental, environmental justice, and labor activists from Texas and national organizations followed up with a well-attended workshop (video here). Attendees participated in an honest and heartfelt dialogue that touched on the many shared values of the labor and environmental movements, and dug into strategies to work more closely together in the Lone Star State.
Texas AFL-CIO Retweeted
This was the theme of the Convention laid out by the TX AFL-CIO:
. . . We have to build organizations that are democratic, multiracial, and ready to act, with a foundation in solidarity. “Solidarity” meaning that even if you don’t experience a particular oppression, it doesn’t matter, because you understand that as ordinary people, our fates are tied together, and that one group’s liberation is dependent upon the liberation of all the oppressed and exploited.
In Saturday’s speech before the Texas trade unionists, Mair reflected on his family’s roots in South Carolina, first as enslaved African Americans and eventually unionized as Teamsters. He pointed out that slavery was in its essence a system of labor exploitation, and he reminded attendees of the roots of the labor movement in organizing against slave labor. Mair said the labor movement is essential to workplace democracy, and workplace democracy is a prerequisite to political democracy.
Texas AFL-CIO Retweeted
At the same time, Mair noted that the transition to a clean economy is necessary and inevitable. Noting the rampant handouts to big corporate polluters, he called for public incentives for family-sustaining clean energy jobs that will save the planet. In Texas where wind energy is plentiful, the Sierra Club is committed to standing with building and construction trades unionists to make sure more of these jobs go union.
Mair went on to recall the Sierra Club’s sponsorship of an “Unjust Transition” award for Nissan at the Paris climate talks because of its union-busting of African-American workers organizing for dignity and human rights. He said the Sierra Club will continue to call out any “clean energy” employer that uses “degraded labor” as inimical to the values and traditions of both the environmental and labor movements. He acknowledged the difficulty of union organizing in a so-called “right to work” state, a misnomer for a legal structure designed to strip workers of the ability to defend their interests collectively. Mair received a standing ovation at the close of his speech.
That afternoon, labor activists from the Sierra Club and TEJAS (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services) engaged in an honest and heartfelt dialogue with about 50 representatives of the Texas labor movement in a workshop called Building Solidarity: Winning Labor, Environmental and Racial Justice Fights in Texas. Moderator Dee Arellano of TEJAS opened by asking participants to name values they associated with the Labor Movement and the Environmental Movement.
(Photos courtesy of Dave Cortez)
This brainstorming on shared values set the stage for the moderator to lead the panelists, all of whom have deep histories working in the labor, environmental and EJ movements (Larry Williams Jr., the Sierra Club Labor and Economic Justice Program Coal Coordinator, Dave Cortez, the Sierra Club’s Senior Organizing Representative in Texas, and TEJAS co-founders Juan Parras and Ana Parras) and audience participants in a dialogue around working together despite a false narrative that environmental and labor activists don’t share the same values. What kinds of issues can we work together on to build unity? What's our vision for protecting the health of communities and workers as we power our economy and protect the environment? What can the labor and EJ movements do together to fight racial inequality? And what educational and organizing resources can unions, environmental and EJ organizations provide to each other to begin answering these questions? The responses to these questions led to a powerful dialogue based on recognition of our common interests and a commitment to joint work in Texas around both EJ and labor issues.
Overall, this experience demonstrated that when we move workers’ rights and union values from the margins to the center of the environmental agenda, we can move mountains. The Sierra Club is grateful for the opportunity the Texas AFL-CIO provided for dialogue between leaders and rank and file members of our movements, and for the big step we took together towards deeper collaboration in Texas and around the country.
(Left to right: Orlando Lara, Larry Williams Jr., Dave Cortez, Michael Leon Guerrero, Pedro Cruz, Ana Parras, Juan Parras, ___, Dee Arellano, Yvette Arellano)
(Photo courtesy of Dave Cortez)
Dean Hubbard From Compass