Published on February 20th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan308
Sanders vs Clinton vs ?? — Some Thoughts
February 20th, 2016 by Zachary Shahan
CleanTechnica‘s top adviser recently reached out to potentially discuss what CleanTechnica‘s position on endorsing a candidate would be. We both felt it was better at this stage to postpone any such endorsement, and I think writers on our team would have some big differences of opinion on who to endorse. So, this is no official endorsement.
Nonetheless, I have gotten the election bug (which has been quite detrimental to my work productivity) and I wanted to throw some thoughts down on CleanTechnica that I think are worth sharing.
Firstly, jumping straight into some energy and climate issues, one thing that is important to me is Hillary Clinton’s ties to Keystone XL (that just keep growing) and her very long delay in opposing it, which she only really did right around the time Obama strongly indicated he wouldn’t approve it (and I’m assuming Clinton got word of that decision and followed suit). If Hillary had to take so long before making a stance on such a topic, and many think she was inclined to approve, it makes me concerned about her strength in opposing fossil fuels. In reality, I think she’d continue an “all of the above” strategy that I think is having and will in the long term have truly disastrous and society-threatening consequences. While I’m sure she’d have stronger climate policy than the legitimate psychopaths leading the race for Republican leadership, as well as the pollution-loving contenders bringing up the rear, I think she’d be far too fossil-friendly for my tastes (not just in rhetoric to win a general election, but also in policy).
To be honest, I don’t recall ever hearing Hillary make a statement that I would classify as a “climate hawk” statement. If someone has a good one or two you can share, I’d love to see it.
Bill Clinton has made some great statements on global warming and climate change in recent years (less constrained by partisan politics, perhaps), and Hillary has made strong statements in support of clean energy, but the point isn’t just to support clean energy, it’s also to strongly cut energy from dirty sources that pollute our world, destroy our health, cause premature death, and warm our world to a species-threatening degree.
Up till August, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley had made many strong policy statements/commitments on climate and energy matters, while Hillary had put very little out there that would make her come across as a climate hawk. Maybe she thought her nomination was a given and didn’t want to weaken her chances of defeating a Republican in the general election, but it’s not particularly uplifting to those of us who see climate change as such a critical matter and think we need a real champion and leader on this topic in the presidency.
Overall, I’m not sure of her sincerity (it may be exceptional), but so much of what she says comes across as political pandering just to win an election. And this is an impression that so many people have, combined with a relentless amount of political and media pressure on several of her past decisions and her honesty, that she is widely seen as untrustworthy. As one political pundit summarizes:
71% of men and 64% of women find Clinton “not honest and trustworthy.”
74% of Independent voters find Clinton “not honest and trustworthy.”
35% of Democrats find Clinton “not honest and trustworthy.” Yes, even Democrats.
Whether it’s based on misperception or valid insight, it is what it is, and beyond being a personal concern of mine, I think it also presents a great threat to Hillary’s chances in a general election in which a large portion of the voters have strong opinions on this matter. (Bernie, on the other hand, seems to have great potential to win over a decent percentage of Republican voters, and is currently the frontrunner in a general election — admittedly, based on premature polling. Overall, his core focus on corruption in politics is something that connects well with Republicans as well. I wonder why….)
Also, in general, I think Hillary’s challenges making people laugh and getting people excited present large challenges in a general election. Even in a primary in which she was basically gifted the nomination (by superdelegates, the mass media, etc), she has been unable to escape a neck-and-neck challenge from Bernie Sanders. Furthermore, there’s a large percentage of Democrats unwilling to support her even in a general election.
But getting back to energy matters and Bernie Sanders, here are some notes on him. We ran an article by Bernie all the way back in 2012, with this photo at the top:
The article detailed Mitt Romney’s relationship to energy, and highlighted Bernie’s strong opposition to subsidies for fossil fuels. Here’s one quote from that:
Romney is right about one thing: The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.
As a member of both the Senate energy and environment committees, I am working to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry. I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas, and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found that over $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.
As you can see, this gets into Bernie’s core topic of focus in the debates, and presumably politically — corruption in US politics and policy. Fundamentally, from climate, to broader environmental and energy topics, to equity topics, to economic topics, Bernie highlights that Big Money has far too much influence over our political system and has been rigging the system in the favor of the rich and lucky over the rest of us.
I think that’s a matter that many of us became well aware of years ago, and that has disenfranchised many intelligent citizens who need to be a part of the political process. It’s just a bit of a shock that we finally have a legitimate presidential candidate who is focused on this problem, rather than participating in it.
In a recent article on Think Progress, Emily Atkin did a great job highlighting how Bernie’s deep criticism of US politics guided his response to the Nevada solar crisis compared to Hillary’s. Naturally, recognizing the anti-rooftop solar nightmare that just arrived in a key state at this point of the primaries, both Bernie and Hillary are using the opportunity to try to attract more voters to the Nevada Democratic caucuses.
Here’s the summary of Bernie’s response:
Here’s how Sanders seems to be approaching the issue: Remind voters that a fossil-fuel funded billionaire caused the problem, and empower them to take action themselves.
How did a billionaire cause the problem? In a nutshell, the new solar fees were requested by NV Energy, the state’s energy utility, which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. NV Energy argued that solar customers needed to be on equal footing with other sources like fossil fuels, and should not be getting comparatively low fees and high incentives from the state. In addition, the state’s increase in rooftop solar customers was harmful to NV’s business, as solar customers only had to buy electricity from the utility at night.
In addition, Buffett’s NV Energy has “substantial” monetary ties to Nevada Gov. Sandoval, who appointed the PUC members, according to Ecowatch. “First, Sandoval’s two election campaigns have both received the maximum allowed donation under state law from NV Energy,” Ecowatch writes. “Next, two of NV Energy’s primary lobbyists, Pete Ernaut and Gregory W. Ferraro, are two of the Republican governor’s closest advisers.”
In other words, the Nevada solar situation is right up Sanders’ political alley. He is anti-billionaire; anti-money in politics; pro-climate action; and anti-fossil fuel. And in Nevada, a billionaire-owned, fossil fuel-powered energy monopoly is contributing heavily to a Republican governor’s campaign, with the goal of reducing solar power in the state.
In contrast, here’s the summary of Hillary’s response:
Her proposed solution to the problem, however, is different from Sanders’. Instead of appealing to voters individually, she is broadly advocating for the passage of federal law.
Specifically, she cited an amendment to The Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA), which would limit the ability of state agencies and utilities — like the PUC and NV Energy — to retroactively change rates and fees for existing customers. The amendment was proposed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in response to Nevada’s struggles.
“Utilities should not be allowed to penalize consumers with retroactive rule changes that cause financial hardship and slow the transition to a clean energy economy,” Clinton said. “[The amendment] would safeguard the benefits that consumers, many in Nevada, believed they would receive by investing in clean energy in their homes and businesses.”
As someone who is very keen on rooting out (as much as possible, at least) the corruption in the US political system, and empowering citizens to be better educated and more active politically in order to do so, I think you can see by now that I’m in obvious support of Bernie Sanders. The fact that he has long been an obvious climate hawk, has pioneered strong clean energy legislation in Congress, and has rolled out truly progressive climate and energy plans (while Hillary has delayed making strong plans and seldom stuck her neck out there to advance climate action and cleantech growth) all come together to make the choice to support Sanders that much easier.
Of course, there are numerous matters outside of climate and energy that are important to consider. The story on most of them tends to be the same, from my perspective.
I think I wouldn’t judge anyone for having a different perspective on this race, but I’d be interested to hear your arguments to the contrary if you disagree.
[Update] And by the way…
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