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Why It Might Actually be Good for the Planet that the US is For Sale

The year 2010 provides lessons from two policy fights that climate hawks can learn from, and apply in the next battle. And fortunately for us, the news is encouraging for three reasons. 1. Money made the difference. 2. With Citizens United, the US democracy is now for sale. And 3. The clean tech sector is growing rapidly – at least internationally.

While the climate bill lost nationally (stopped short at the Senate), almost identical legislation in California passed 60-40 at the ballot box with No on Prop 23. For the first time, money made the difference – on the side of the Good Guys. The clincher was a huge influx of $31 million from California’s rapidly growing clean tech industry for No on Prop 23.

In the end, those of us fighting Prop 23 spent significantly more money than the fossil industry spent trying to stop California’s climate bill.

Initially, the climate zombies had the funding edge, as No on 23 Co-chair Tom Steyer admits. “The truth is that we started from behind,” he told the LA Times. “Then we got organized. We raised more. We had a momentum factor”.

Money enabled No on Prop 23 to send out 3.4 million pieces of mail, make 379,676 on-campus contacts with college students, muster 3,200 volunteers, who made 2.8 million phone calls to voters, and to operate a sophisticated computerized outreach program that identified and contacted 481,000 voters, and showered voters with 900,000 get-out-the vote phone calls and text messages in the last three days.

Public shaming by the rich helped too. The San Francisco philanthropist and Farallon Capital Management investment banker who manages $20 billion in investment funds said “Companies that might have given to the initiative thought it was too risky and didn’t want to look like jerks.”

In the end, even Bill Gates spent money to defeat Prop 23. We won.

By contrast, to defeat the climate bill nationally the fossil industry spent $175 million on stomping Waxman-Markey at the door of the Senate in 2009, and the next year, another $250 million. Climate zombies outspent climate hawks by at least 8 to 1. We lost.

However, there’s good news. Internationally, clean tech has already grown to a $10 billion industry, and is predicted to triple by 2020. We now have serious backup, that we didn’t have when we were first fighting the fossil industry to pass the Kyoto Accord. We lost, but Europe passed it, and has now become a clean tech powerhouse. China too. There is now a constituency for clean energy.

Now that the US is actually for sale, because the Citizens United decision encourages unlimited corporate funding of our “democracy” – it is time for our side to call for help from every international stakeholder in a carbon-constrained future.

All of us who worked on defeating Prop 23 need to enlarge our coalition internationally to get national climate legislation passed. We should start now working on another go at it for 2012, but this time we need to put together serious money for a focused effort, from every stakeholder from around the planet.

It is in the entire world’s interest that America finally get on board with clean energy, and lucky for us, the US is now a Plutocracy. Climate Hawks: Let’s Roll!

Image: Plane Stupid

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Written By

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.


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