Standards & Legislation

Voters Side with Efficient Candidates in Election

November 26, 2012
Barack Obama has been re-elected president of the United States, Republicans have retained control of the House of Representatives, and Democrats continue to rule the Senate.

To the naysayers, the election may have seemed like one big waste of energy; however, to energy-efficiency advocates, the election may help eliminate a great deal of energy waste. In many cases, voters sided with candidates who campaigned on behalf of environmental stewardship.

Efficient Electorate

Voters elected numerous candidates who supported green measures and energy efficiency.

Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who was re-elected to a second Senate term, voted yes on incentives for alternative fuels, supported implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, and sponsored the SEAM Act of 2011, which would have granted $5 billion in grants or tax credits to manufacturers whose products were used in alternative energy products.

Former Gov. Angus King, I-Maine, who was elected to the Senate, has personally invested in renewable energy, endorsing the Maine Green Energy Project, a summer youth program built for children to learn, promote, and advocate for green energy.

Bill Nelson, D-Fla., was elected to a third term in the Senate. His campaign focused heavily on improving the economy through the development of oil alternatives and increased use of renewable energy.

However, a few individuals who expressed continued support of energy legislation will not be returning to Congress. Charlie Bass, R-N.H., author of the Smart Energy Act, was defeated in the second district House race by Democrat Ann McLane Kuster.

Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., who along with Bass was the only Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to vote against the “No More Solyndras” Act, lost his 50th Congressional House seat by less than 700 votes to Democrat Scott Peters.

Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., a seven-term House member and chair of the U.S. House Energy Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, lost her seat to Democratic challenger Raul Ruiz. Also, longtime energy advocate Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., has retired. He will be replaced by Mark Heinrich, D-N.M., who defeated Heather Wilson on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Anti-Efficiency

This year, voters seemed to sour on a number of candidates or incumbents with not-so environmentally friendly voting records.

House hopefuls Ann Marie Buerkle, R-N.Y.; Francisco Canseco, R-Texas; Tim Holden, R-Pa.; and Senate candidates George Allen, R-Va.; Josh Mandel, R-Ohio; Linda McMahon, R-Conn.; Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.; Joe Walsh, R-Ill.; and Heather Wilson, R-N.M. each fell short in their conquest for political office.

Buerkle referred to climate change as the “global warming myth,” and Canseco responded to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) limits on carbon pollution, stating that “passing environmental regulations based on reportedly manufactured global warming data is utterly the wrong direction for our country.”

Holden supported measures to permanently block the EPA from regulating global warming pollution and opposed limits on mercury pollution emitted from power plants.

Allen opposed spending on global warming research, and voted no on a bill that would mandate a 40 percent reduction in oil usage by 2025.

Mandel supported investment in coal and continually voted against clean-energy policy, claiming climate-change research is “riddled with fraud.”

McMahon proposed abolishing the EPA and granting a $2.3 billion tax break to the nation’s largest oil companies. Rehberg voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, opposed limits on CO2 global warming pollution, and voted no on renewable energy tax credits.

Walsh signed a pledge to not support any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenues, and Wilson consistently voted to protect incentives and loopholes in place for oil and gas companies.

Energy Proposals

Two significant energy-centric proposals gained headlines during the election. Michigan voters shot down a state ballot initiative that would have required energy utility companies to produce 25 percent of all energy through renewable sources, such as wind, solar, biofuels, geothermal, and others, by 2025.

The proposal would have amended the state’s constitution and was highly opposed by utility companies including Consumer’s Energy, DTE Energy, and Wolverine Electric. Michigan currently regulates that by 2015, 10 percent of energy production comes from renewable sources.

In California, voters approved Proposition 39, which closes a tax loophole for multistate businesses. The measure is expected to raise approximately $1 billion annually, with half of the revenue reserved for energy efficiency and clean energy projects inside California’s public buildings, including schools.

The approval of Proposition 39 was lauded by numerous environmental enthusiasts, including California’s Sierra Club.

“Prop 39 ensures California will continue to invest in the fastest growing part of its economy — clean energy,” said Elizabeth Thompson, president, Environmental Defense Action Fund, in a statement. “The economic challenges facing California are real and we believe Prop 39, by leveling the playing field for job-creating companies in California and relieving budget stress, will keep the state on the cutting edge.”

Presidential Progress

Now that he’s back in office, many expect the president to map out an energy plan and achieve his goals.

Throughout his campaign, he promised additional investments in solar, wind, and biofuels; supported natural gas drilling and fracturing; proposed to roll-back oil and gas company incentives; supported the construction of a Keystone XL pipeline southern leg and increased production of oil and gas on public lands; and proposed more fracturing drilling permits.

During a recent science consortium, Obama laid out numerous goals for his next four years, which included finding a way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other heat-trapping gases, while increasing the use of renewable energy resources and increasing energy-efficiency.

Publication date: 11/26/2012

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