Ahead of the Election, Signs of Hope and Caution For Climate Activists
A week before the critically significant national election for climate activists there’s promising news from California. A Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California poll released over the weekend found that Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, one of Capitol Hill’s most important advocates for reducing climate-changing emissions, has opened an eight-point lead over Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, 50 percent to 42 percent.
The poll, by a firm that works for candidates of both parties, also found that Proposition 23, the statewide measure funded by out-of-state oil companies to block implementation of California’s climate change law, is losing 32 percent to 48 percent. That’s due in no small part to clean-tech companies outspending oil companies by a nearly three-to-one margin. Valero Energy Corp. and Tesoro Corp., just contributed $1 million and $500,000, respectively, bringing spending for the pro-Proposition 23 campaign to $10.6 million. But the “No on 23″ group’s spent $30.5 million.
And for those interested in the California governor’s race, the LA Times/USC poll shows Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown ahead of Republican Meg Whitman by 13 points, 52 percent to 39 percent.
In other regions of the country, polls point to more trouble for climate action on Capitol Hill. They also portend a big scrap to assure the momentum gained over the last two years for clean energy development and for limiting climate-changing emissions under the Clean Air Act.
Most polls predict the Democrats will hold a one or two-vote majority in the Senate. One intriguing outcome is that recent polls in Alaska show Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski tied or leading in her race for re-election. Senator Murkowski, who lost the Republican primary earlier this year, is running as a write-in candidate. She has been the leader in the Senate for rolling back E.P.A.’s authority to regulate carbon emissions.
In the House, a number of polls tracked by RealClearPolitics.com predict that Republicans will take the House. If that occurs, Republican leaders have promised to launch an investigative broadside against the administration, climate science, and the E.P.A.’s work to limit climate emissions.
In the meantime President Obama has been busy promoting his party’s candidates, and his aides are advancing the administration’s pioneering work to improve energy efficiency and limit climate emissions. On Monday, the E.P.A. and the Department of Transportation proposed the nation’s first greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy standards for medium and heavy-duty freight trucks, and for buses. The heavy vehicle fleet consumes 100 million gallons of oil a day, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, and produce 20 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. transportation sector. The E.P.A. said the proposed standards, aimed at heavy vehicles manufactured from 2014 to 2018, would reduce oil consumption by more than 500 million barrels over the operating lifetimes of the vehicles, and cut carbon dioxide pollution by 250 million metric tons.
One more important bit of news on energy efficiency came out of the Midwest this week. The Federal Railroad Administration awarded $230 million in federal funding to expand high-speed passenger rail service between Chicago, the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois, and Iowa City. The money will be spent to improve a portion of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network. The grant, according to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based group, is part of the second round of competitive funding to develop high-speed rail corridors across the nation. The new round of funding also includes $800 million for rail development in Florida, and $902 million for a line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The Obama Administration, said ELPC, has invested $10.5 billion in high-speed rail projects, with $1 billion more pledged for each of the next four years.
Keith Schneider, a journalist and producer, is senior writer for the U.S. Climate Action Network. Reach him at email@example.com