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When it comes to Virginia, being concerned about environment/climate demands vote for Northam

October 12th, 2017 · No Comments

Yesterday, Ralph Northam released a new advertisement in the Virginia governor’s race simply entitled Environment.

The advertisement opens:

Protecting our environment is one of the most important things we can do for our kids. And as a doctor, I trust the science on climate change.

While perhaps tired of “doctor” as seemingly lead for everything (when Northam’s life of service includes: Major Doctor Senator Lt.Gov. Volunteer), perhaps it makes sense because a medical doctor has a lot of scientific education which helps set the stage for “I trust the science”.  Quite honestly, Ralph Northam (including, perhaps, his staff who helped on the phrasing) earns some points for “trust the science” rather than using the often-used faulty “I believe”.

While I like that line, the next caught my attention:

But Ed Gillespie worked for a think tank that rejects climate science and fought to pull out of the global climate agreement.

Okay, knew a lot about Gillespie’s sordid client history but this was new — even as this is right in my core focus. As per the Richmond Times,  along with DCI Group, 2016 Gillespie clients included the (misleadingly named) Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the (astroturf) American Energy Alliance.  To quickly summarize, these are key players in framing political discussion in the promotion of fossil fuels, undermining of clean energy (e.g., solar and wind), denial of climate science, and damaging the Federal government’s (and state) programs to help move the United States toward a prosperous and climate-friendly modern energy system. A simple shorthand path to understanding this:

Both the American Energy Alliance and its parent organization, the Institute for Energy Research (IER), are run by Tom Pyle, a former lobbyist for Koch Industries.

With Trump’s inexplicable (thank you Russia?) election, the door was wide open and IER flooded through it — providing much of the ‘intellectual’ (fraudulent thinking) feeding into Team Trump’s horrific energy and climate concepts, actions, and policies.

From Northam’s ad, the next line:

Now Ed’s going right along with Donald Trump as he tries to roll back our clean air and water protections.

Gillespie’s close ties to those behind Trump’s actions certainly give credence to Northam’s words.

Of course, it isn’t just IER and AEA that make Enron Ed’s dirty energy pedigree. In addition to helping Enron amid what was one of the greatest frauds in US business history, Gillespie worked for the American Petroleum Institute to fight against improved fuel efficiency. He … well … that list is long.

As Republican George Allen put it, ‘you can tell a lot about people from the folks they stand with’ (or, for Gillespie, who they profit from/help profit off others).

Gillespie’s ‘folks’ include those working diligently to undermine American prosperity and competitiveness while putting American (and, well, others’) lives and futures at (much greater) risk.

Virginia’s future cannot be given to someone so willing to put the future at risk in order to put a buck in the wallet today.

Time to recognize reality

There is a stark difference between Northam’s “trust the science” and Gillespie’s close ties to leading climate science deniers (if not outright denial himself).

In Virginia, at this time, there is a stark challenge: Dominion Power’s effort to drive through unnecessary and climate-threatening gas pipelines (that will be paid for by the consumer no matter actual requirements for the pipelines in a way that guarantees Dominion significant profit).  There is not a serious Virginian environmentalist who is not frustrated by Governor McAuliffe’s enabling of Dominion’s disastrous plan and Ralph Northam’s embrace of a questionable (if not outright false) stance that stopping these pipelines would be outside his control as governor.  Simply put, both McAuliffe and Northam are wrong, on multiple grounds (environmental, economic, legal authorities), as to these pipelines.

In fall 2016, quite a few activist organizations and individuals (partially frustrated by the Obama Administration and, as well, Hillary Clinton’s (too) close ties to the natural gas industry and history with promoting fracking) focused their attention on efforts to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Perhaps thinking Clinton a lock against Trump (or caught up in Stein & Russian propaganda that there was no difference between them), these 1,000s (actually, dependent on count: 10,000s to perhaps 100,000s) focused their resources (time, energy, communications, money) to fighting to stop DAPL.  (I was troubled a year ago: while not sure it was the right ‘line in the sand’, the trampling of Native American (treaty) rights truly disturbed me and I greatly respected the morality/ethics/sacrifice/courage of those who literally put their bodies/lives at risk in fighting the pipeline … however, I was concerned about all the attention flowing there rather to get out the vote efforts and discussions of Trump’s & the GOP’s disastrous energy/climate policies.) While alternative history is, well, fantasy: it doesn’t seem outlandish to consider that these 100,000s (millions) of hours and dollars spent knocking on doors, rather than in what (especially with Team Trump in charge) was perhaps a quixotic high-risk side-show from 2016’s main event.  Could we have been in a situation of ‘fighting to make Clinton better’ (or less worse) rather than being in a constant defense mode, losing ground across virtually every front, as the fossil-fools from Trump on down devastate sensible policies and #MAGA (Make America Gasp Again) with pollution-promotion friendly actions?

Take this into Virginia’s 2017 elections.  Could (very understandable, correct on so many grounds, and substantively at least 99% right on the issues) energy spent on pipeline fighting amid the election campaign help Ed Gillespie (maybe even tip what might turn out to be a tight election) and enable a few House seats to remain in the GOP (preventing the long-shot potential of Democratic Party control of the House of Delegates from becoming reality)?  Facing that risk, the judgment seems clear: environmental (including climate) activists need to take the next month to fight to get Northam elected (and to elect as many climate/environmental savvy Democrats into the House of Delegates).  It is time to send a message to Northam:

  • we are going to fight like crazy to get you elected, to keep Gillespie’s climate science denial friends from owning the Governor’s mansion.
  • Remember that we are serious players in helping you win and help Democratic Party House candidates win … Remember that well as the moment the polls closed,
  • We are going to turn that energy that got you elected into efforts to help you when you are right on environmental, energy, and climate issues and, hopefully far less frequently,
  • We will be even more vigorous in battling you when you are wrong —
    • as you are with / on the pipelines.

Electoral reality is electoral reality — the choice in Virginia is clear for those concerned about about having reasonable redistricting after the next census, about reasonableness in facing (neo)Nazi/white-supremacist threats, women’s health (including choice), about public education, about … about clean energy, environmental, and climate.

Ralph Northam

for Governor

UPDATE:  Excellent point in reaction to this post:

PS: For the sort of thoughtful and substantive energy/climate policy that merits full-throated support, see Rebecca Otto’s plan for Powering Minnesota to Prosperity.

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