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Election Analysis: Power boost or short circuit (redux)?

Four years ago, I wrote an article for a national magazine on what to make of the 2010 mid-term elections and its implications for energy policy.

Once again, a mid-term election has made us pause and ask what the results mean for green-energy policy?

At the national level, pundits are trying to interpret the will of the voters and whether there are repercussions for a variety of issues, including the proposed climate rules originating from the EPA. After all, the presumptive new Chairman of the Environment Committee, Sen. James Inhoff (R-OK), comes to the position with the reputation as the biggest climate-denier in Congress.  Sen. Inhoff is infamous in environmental circles for his remarks that climate change could actually be beneficial to how we live our lives.

In addition, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a post-election speech this week that his top priority is “to try to do whatever I can to get the EPA reined in.”

However, just as I wrote in 2010, things are not entirely what they seem. The prevailing wisdom that climate rules are dead, may be a bit premature.

It is clear that on November 4th -- voters all across the country were unhappy with President Obama and the gridlock that is Washington D.C.  But, in order for Sen. McConnell to "rein" in the EPA and kill its proposed carbon rules, his only bargaining chip is to shutdown government.  And, another government shutdown will fly directly in the face of voters.

What's more, while McConnell's constituents may have turned out and voted for coal, that isn't reflective of the national mood. National exit polls indicated the priority issues for which voters pulled the levers in the voting booth this year were the economy, jobs, and terrorism.

is-climate-change-happening.jpg

Truth is -- despite Sen. McConnell's new leadership position, public sentiment does not support blocking the EPA from moving forward with the long-overdue rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions. The latest polling data range from a high of 88 percent of respondents in states as dissimilar as Arizona and Massachusetts -- that believe global warming is happening, to a "low" of 75 percent in Ohio. There is equally strong support nationwide for regulating greenhouse gases to mitigate its effects.

The November 2013 survey (cited above) conducted by the Woods Institute at Stanford University, shows a clear majority of Arizonans of all political orientations --  not only believe that climate change is real, but 79% believe that humans are the cause, and it is becoming more serious.

Other responses from Arizonans:

  • 72% believe the government should limit greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. businesses;
  • 71% believe the U.S. federal government should do more to address warming;
  • 65% believe the U.S. should take action regardless of what other countries do;
  • 81% believe we should reduce greenhouse gases from power plants;
  • 71% favor a national cap and trade program;
  • 76% favor breaks to produce renewable energy;
  • 60% favor tax breaks to reduce air pollution from coal;
  • 74% want increased fuel economy standards for cars;
  • 73% want new appliances that use less electricity;
  • 76% favor building more energy-efficient buildings;
  • 64% want more electric vehicles;
  • 41% favor tax breaks to build nuclear power plants;
  • 23% want increased consumption taxes on electricity;
  • 26% want increased consumption taxes on gasoline.

These points of view should not be lost on our Arizona elected officials either. Case in point: A recommendation to the Arizona Corporation Commission this week to eliminate the state's energy efficiency standard is a hostile proposition to the views of 8 in 10 Arizonans.

Our public officials would be wise to remember that the will of the voters that swept them into office, can just as easily sweep them out of office.  Moreover, the politician that pays no heed to the huge job-growth potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy because of political ideology, is not only reckless -- but is gambling with the health of the planet we all call home. 

Jim Arwood
Communications Director
Arizona Solar Center

Questions:

Do you believe new leadership in congress would allow another government shutdown if the proposed carbon rules aren’t blocked through other means? Do you believe politicians put the wishes of financial contributors before the needs of the voters?

Targeting Climate Voters
War on Efficiency

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