This Valentine’s Day: Ditch a Megabank Zero and Take Up With a Hero

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate the ones we love.  But what if your love is one-sided and you are on the losing end?  If you are giving your hard-earned dollars to a megabank – such as Citi, Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo – you might want to look at ending your relationship soon.  Ask yourself these questions: Do you want to be in a relationship where your partner abuses the planet?  If not, you should be aware that Citi, Bank of America, and Chase are all major funders of coal mining and coal-fired power plants. Do you want to be in a relationship where your partner rips you off?  If not, you should know that all the major banks and credit card issuers have been sued by federal and/or state authorities for abusive mortgage, credit cards, or other products.  And, big banks keep looking for ways to pile on fees. Do you want to be with a partner that has a total disregard for others and takes no responsibility for its actions?  Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, and Bank of America were all involved in fomenting the mortgage crisis that crashed the economy in 2008. They gambled with our money and then made us bail them out. It can be hard to leave a long-term relationship.  You get used to a bank and think that it will be a big hassle to change, or you’ll lose out on […]

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Newsflash: Regulating Banks is Good for Credit Card Customers

When Congress decided to reign in the abuses of the credit card industry four years ago through the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (the Card Act), a lot of industry observers declared that increased regulation would lead to high costs for consumers overall.  Not so.  As reported in the New York Times, a recent study by Neal Mahoney, an economist at the University of Chicago found that federal regulation of credit card abuses has been unequivocally beneficial to consumers, to the tune of $20 billion per year. Before the Card Act, megabanks would regularly charge excessive fees and interest rates to cardholders, particularly low-income cardholders.  For example, banks would regularly jack up the interest rate on credit card holders for no reason – the cardholders were not delinquent in their payments – often to rates exceeding 25%.  Banks also played with the due dates for payments to engineer more late fees, and charged customers extra for paying by phone or over the internet.  These interest rates and fees boosted profits at megabanks, and acted as an enormous transfer of wealth from mostly working class and poor Americans to our wealthiest financial institutions, helping to drive record salaries for CEO and upper management. When the Card Act passed in 2009, the industry warned that consumers would be penalized overall with less access to credit and higher rates in general.  Overall, that has not happened.  While banks have pulled back […]

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Green America supports the EPA in regulating power plants

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been hosting a listening tour across the country to gain feedback from citizens and organizations about proposed regulations of carbon emissions from existing power plants.  Green America has already supported the EPA’s proposal to regulate emissions from new power plants.  Now, the EPA is proposing to regulate existing power plants — a far greater source of carbon emissions in the US — particularly emissions from coal-fired plants. At a number of listening sessions, the coal industry has presented testimony that EPA regulations of coal-fired power plants will harm the U.S. economy.  However, all of the evidence demonstrates that the opposite is true.The continued reliance on coal as major source of electric power in the U.S. is harming our economy and preventing job growth. On behalf of Green America, I presented the following remarks at the listening session in Washington DC today. Thank you for hosting these listening sessions across the country to receive input from Americans on the important issue of regulating greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. My name is Todd Larsen, and I serve as the corporate responsibility director of Green America, a national non-profit organization with 170,000 individual members and 3,500 business members nationwide.  Our green business network is the largest network of certified green business in the United States.  Green America is also a member of the American Sustainable Business Council, which represents over 150,000 businesses nationwide. On behalf […]

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Air Pollution: Our National Parks in Peril

Imagine planning a family vacation to see the many beautiful national parks our country has to offer. The trip culminates with a visit to the Grand Canyon, arguably the United States’ most recognizable landscape. But instead of gazing in awe of the canyon, imagine that the skyline is hazy.  Now, in addition to pollution, imagine our national parks with fewer and fewer majestic animals  and towering trees. One of the most overlooked aspects of air pollution is the effect that it is having on our scenic national parks. Landscapes and environments across the country, from Yellowstone to the Great Smoky Mountains, are being polluted with toxins from power plants, mining operations and motor vehicles.  Our national parks are a treasured way for all Americans, from all income groups, ages and races, to discover nature, and nearly three hundred million people do so each year.   Increasingly, Americans will discover the devastating impacts we are having on nature instead. The National Parks Conservation Association’s  State of the America’s National Parks report from 2011 details the impact that environmental harms, including air and water pollution, have had on the United States’ extensive national park system. 95 percent of all parks have experienced the loss of plant or animal species in recent years. More than half of the parks received an air quality rating of fair, poor or critical. Climate change is affected iconic species of our parks, including the joshua trees of Joshua […]

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Electric Vehicles Going Mainstream?

        Although electric vehicles have been around for decades, they have yet to make a huge impact in the competitive market. Gas guzzlers continue to dominate the roadways despite the fact that electric cars can save drivers thousands of dollars a year in fuel costs. They have been proven to be just as safe, reliable and affordable as other cars, yet there has yet to be a true electric vehicle revolution in the United States. However, two recent articles show that the market may soon start shifting towards electric over gas. The two main arguments against electric vehicles are their unfair reputation as slow, expensive and weak cars and the lack of charging stations available for long distance driving. Articles from Motor Trend and the Huffington Post, respectively, have helped disprove these myths and point towards a bright future for electric cars. In the January 2013 edition of Motor Trend, the magazine will name the Tesla Model S the car of the year. This marks the first time in their 64 year history that they will give the award to a car without an internal combustion engine and signals that public stereotypes against electric vehicles are becoming less prevalent. Motor Trend touts the impressive horsepower and torque of the Tesla, while also praising the storage space, sleek design and on-board navigation system. The Model S passed or exceeded all safety tests and was found to have a range of up […]

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Hurricane Sandy raises the issue that is absent from the campaigns

It is only November and we have already experienced five major climatic abnormalities that have been at the forefront of discussion across America. Since the beginning of this year, wildfires have burned through an area the size of Maryland. On August 14th 2012, 25 percent of the land area of the lower 48 states was experiencing extreme or exceptional drought (which in turn knocked off 0.4 percentage points from third quarter GDP growth). Arctic sea ice melted to the lowest levels ever recorded. And most recently, a late season hurricane swept across the East Coast and caused billions of dollars of damage that will take weeks or months to recover from. Unsurprisingly, the problem at the root of these events is related to one simple factor that we have known about for years: a warming climate. The first nine months of the year have been the hottest the United States has ever experienced. A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post highlights these starting events and notes that while these events are not a direct result of how much CO2 we are emitting this year (which is actually on pace to be the lowest total in 20 years), the fact that we continue to affect the climate with greenhouse gases is making the atmosphere more unstable and prone to natural disasters. Studies have shown that continuing to pollute our atmospheres will make drought and wild fires more frequent and severe. Global […]

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There’s No Debate: Clean Energy Is the True Path to Energy Security

In last night’s debate, Governor Romney and President Obama both responded to a question regarding high gas prices by talking about the need to create more energy in the United States.  To the extent that their answers (particularly Governor Romney’s) highlighted increased fossil fuels production in the US as a solution, the American public was misled.  In reality, the only way the United States is going to get stable energy prices, and true energy security, is by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy in the US. Increasing domestic oil drilling and production is meaningless to energy security, since oil is traded on a global market, and the US can’t do much to control its price.  Increased drilling also risks more catastrophic oil spills, increases greenhouse gas emissions, and keeps us addicted to oil (which will undermine our long-term energy security).  Increasing other fossil fuels, such as natural gas and coal, is also short-sighted, since both are finite, and the economic (and environmental) damage of using them exceeds any benefits.  Only renewable energy promises true energy security, since no one can own the sun, the wind, and the tides.  Paired with energy efficiency, which could reduce our overall consumption dramatically, renewable energy can pave the way for a truly sustainable economy. However, while the pathway for energy efficiency and clean energy has been looking increasingly bright over the past decade, the future of these crucial technologies is now in jeopardy. Since […]

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Bernie Sanders and Tom Coburn agree on something: Clean energy matters to the US

It’s not often that Bernie Sanders (I-VT), a very liberal member of the Senate, and Republicans like Charles Grassley,  John Thune, and Tom Coburn  agree, but one thing they clearly agree on is the need for more clean energy in the United States, and that the US Government needs to play a role in developing it. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), member of the committees for both energy and the environment, recently wrote an article for environmental non-profit Grist which was posted on their website this morning. In the article, Senator Sanders details the current problems with energy subsidies in the United States and suggests that more funding for wind and solar, along with less funding for oil and gas, would go a long way towards securing our energy future. Though green energy has become politicized leading up to the election with talk of the government picking energy “winners and losers,”  Senator Sanders stresses the need for Congress (Democrats and Republicans) to act in support of these important advances in clean energy technology. Senator Sanders starts by pointing out the major flaw behind the “picking winners and losers” argument; namely that it is actually big fossil fuel and nuclear companies that are receiving the bulk of government funding when it comes to energy. According to the nonpartisan Joint committee on Taxation, $113 billion in federal subsidies will be handed out to fossil fuel companies over the next decade. This comes on […]

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Surprise: Clean Energy Benefits Red States Most

Clean Edge recently posted an article by Clint Wilder describing the increasing levels of bipartisan support for clean energy technology in the past few months. One of the main pieces of evidence used to support this claim is a report from DBL Investors titled “Red, White and Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs.” Many liberal members of Congress have been vocal in their support of clean energy for years, but the report states that it is in fact traditionally conservative states in the west and south that are quickly becoming champions of clean energy projects. Of the top 10 states with the fastest growth in clean tech jobs between 2003 and 2010, four states (Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming) are solidly conservative and four more (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and North Carolina) have strong conservative influences. The driving factor behind this shift is the job benefits that the clean energy industry has created. All of these states have created thousands of competitive jobs through wind, solar and biomass plants, which in turn helps boost the economy. Having thousands of new, well-paying jobs is especially important in a tumultuous economic time such as this, which is why state representatives have jumped at the chance to use the renewable energy resources found in their own backyards. Clint Wilder then points out that is a shame that Mitt Romney and most of the GOP are not supporting the extension […]

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