The fundraising for the inaugural party for the incoming Virginia Governor, Democratic Terry McAuliffe, is seeing a serious lift due to donations from fossil-fuel dependent Corporations. Most notably,
McAuliffe’s Inaugural Committee has received $25,000 from Alpha Natural Resources, an $8 billion coal company that gave $92,500 to Cuccinelli’s campaign. Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based coal, gas, and nuclear conglomerate that gave Cuccinelli $75,000, has given McAuliffe’s committee $50,000.
Yes, of the $325,000 from large contributors through 2 December, just under 25 percent comes from two firms closely associated with seeking to undermine climate science, hamper Virginia’s moves to greater energy efficiency and a cleaner electricity system, and who strongly supported the campaign of fossil-foolish climate-science denier Ken Cuccinelli.
Differences on climate science and clean energy were stark during the election campaign. And, those differences played a significant role in McAuliffe’s election, as Virginians want to move forward to a clean-energy 21st century rather than double-down on polluting 19th century energy concepts.
As a Virginian concerned about creating a prosperous clean-energy future for my children and my fellow Virginians, that these fossil-foolish interests can (seemingly) buy a seat at the table for such relatively paltry — for them — amounts is disconcerting and raises concerns of that ‘business as usual’ processes of buying access and influence in Richmond will continue on their merry way.
The Governor-Elect has an opportunity before him to send a signal that my concerns are misplaced and that he will seek all reasonable paths to create the clean energy future that he has spoken about. That opportunity is — in this case — countable to the tune of $75,000.
When it comes to questionable contributions — whether to politicians or to political activities such as the inauguration — many call for the money to be returned to the donor. Honestly, this has always seemed counter-productive to me. While there might be some bad associated press, that donor gets (implicit) credit for having made the donation for free as they get their cash back (okay, without interest).
To me, the far more sensible question in any such circumstance is to say: how can that dirty money be made clean?
- If questionable comes from a drug dealer, why not donate money to drug counseling services?
- If the dirty money is from people exploiting child labor, why not use it for building schools in economically deprived areas?
- If the money comes from anti-science climate denying fossil fuel interests, why not invest in science education and/or clean energy programs?
In this case, Governor-Elect McAuliffe has a very interesting opportunity.
An opportunity to make truth from what he spoke about during his campaign
Candidate Terry McAuliffe, for example,
Wind is clean, wind is safe, solar is clean, solar is safe. So let’s get everything moving forward, studying all these other things, but let’s not be waiting, let’s be moving forward on the things we know work today.
Now, so as not to ‘hide’ things, candidate McAuliffe said this too about solar: “Much more difficult for solar here, obviously, because we don’t have the sun.” That “obviously” isn’t, however, so obvious when one looks at actual facts. While there are many other examples, this Virginian household gets about 80% of our electricity from rooftop solar panels.
How might Governor-Elect McAuliffe “be moving forward” both symbolically and substantively with clean and safe solar power with $75,000 of dirty money?
Why not dedicate that money to putting solar panels up — using a Virginia solar contractor — at the Governor’s mansion in Richmond?
The roughly 20 kilowatts of capacity that $75,000 might get installed would generate in the range of 25 megawatt hours of electricity per year. That would be a bit more than twice the average electricity bill for a Virginia homeowner. Clearly, this is substance that is primarily symbolic.
With this symbolic move, the in-coming Governor would make a clear statement that he will seek reasonable opportunities to promote a clean energy future for all Virginians by “moving forward on the things we know work today.”