Clean energy was a big winner yesterday.
American voters not only re-elected a president who made green jobs a cornerstone of his first term and his campaign, they also rejected some of the shrillest champions of Big Oil and Big Coal in key Senate races from Massachusetts to Ohio, from Virginia to New Mexico.
We should be heartened that the fossil fuel lobby could throw $270 million at so many candidates hawking “drill, baby, drill” and climate denial — and get so little back on their investment.
Apparently, democracy lives … as does common sense. Voters roundly rejected an extremist agenda that says protecting polluter profits is job one, while the rest of us pay the price in illness, poisoned ecosystems and apocalyptic weather.
That last point was hardly academic this Election Day, as millions in the Northeast are still struggling to recover some shred of normalcy after Hurricane Sandy. Our own New York headquarters was dark last week and it has been both surreal and heartrending to watch people lining up — all across the region — for food, fuel and shelter just as winter is bearing down.
The human toll is hard to grasp but all too real: more than 100 people have paid with their lives. Tens of thousands more have lost everything; for them life will never be the same. Dozens of devastated communities are torn apart, feeling suddenly and terribly vulnerable to the next storm on the horizon.
These are the terrible costs of our increasingly extreme weather. Of the ten costliest hurricanes to hit the United States since 1900, eight have occurred in the past eight years — and that was before Sandy. The latest superstorm only underscores what atmospheric scientists have been trying to tell us: the future is here, and the bill has come due for a century-long binge of fossil fuel consumption.
Will Sandy awaken America from our slumber of climate denial? Yesterday’s thrashing of Big Oil’s candidates is one reason for hope. So is the response to the hurricane from politicians of both parties, who are now grappling with the undeniable reality that their states are at the mercy of rising seas.
But hope is not enough. Action is needed … and fast.
NRDC is not waiting. Today, we are calling on President Obama to confront the urgent threat of global warming by reining in carbon polluters and dramatically boosting the role of renewable energy in American life. That is our very best hope for breaking Big Oil’s stranglehold on both our economy and our climate.
Toward that end, we’ll work closely with the second Obama Administration to build on great progress already made in so many sectors — like the new clean car standards we championed that will double the fuel economy of the average vehicle on the road.
But we’ll also be watchdogging the administration to ensure it does the right thing: that the EPA proposes carbon limits for existing power plants … that the State Department delivers on its promise of a complete and independent review of the climate-wrecking Keystone XL tar sands pipeline … that the BLM cracks down on dangerous fracking.
Of course, NRDC always stands for the environment, not for any party or elected official.
So if the Obama Administration strays from its avowed commitment to the environment, then we will hold their feet to the fire — in court — just as we’ve done with every other president over the past forty years.
As you read this, we are suing the administration to save the Polar Bear Seas from Shell’s reckless plans for drilling in the Arctic … and to safeguard the very last 284 beluga whales in Alaska’s Cook Inlet from oil exploration.
Simply put, we will do everything in our power to help President Obama deliver on his goals of clean energy and environmental protection. But NRDC will hold him accountable — for our planet’s sake — if and when he falls short.
As for Congress, it is time for the House Republican leadership and Tea Party members to face reality: the American people are in no mood for more ideological intransigence. By rejecting Big Oil’s candidates, voters sent a message loud and clear that they want more clean energy, less climate denial and an end to the $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuels.
Those are the priorities NRDC will be putting front and center when the lame duck session of Congress begins next week.
I don’t have to tell you that we’ll be counting on your steadfast support and activism. NRDC’s 1.4 million Members and online activists are the secret weapon behind our courtroom power, policy influence and legislative clout.
In the wake of this pivotal election and Hurricane Sandy, I’ll be calling on you to raise your own voice again and demand that our President and Congress take far-reaching action, at long last, to usher in a new and saner future beyond fossil fuels.
We owe it to those on the frontlines of climate change: All of us.