You Don’t Have to Be a Rockefeller

It’s not often at Green America that we highlight members of the 1% as an example to follow, but recent action by the Rockefeller family now serves as a model for many Americans. The Rockefellers have instructed the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to divest its holdings of fossil fuels, joining a growing list of foundations that are taking this stand against irresponsible fossil-fuel polluters. Since the family’s wealth — much of which is now in charities — was made from Standard Oil (now Exxon), the move is particularly meaningful.

The divestment decision comes after years of the Rockefellers engaging with Exxon and trying to encourage the company to be more sustainable, without much success (for 10 years Green America and its members also put direct pressure on Exxon). Exxon and the other major fossil fuel multinationals have made it clear that they plan to pursue a strategy of increasing the production of fossil fuels for decades. That means increased drilling in fragile ecosystems, with the inevitable major spills on land and seas. That means more fracking and more tar sands fields. It also means pumping way more carbon into the atmosphere and warming the planet to levels it hasn’t experienced in millions of years, creating massive disruptions to civilization as we know it, and speeding the extinction of thousands of species.

ThatFossil Free’s why more and more philanthropies, universities, houses of worship, and individuals are saying “enough is enough” and moving their money out of fossil fuels and reinvesting in a green economy.

You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to take part. Here’s four steps to take action with your money:

  1. Divest from climate polluters and reinvest in clean energy. 
    Green America’s Fossil Free Investment campaign has the most complete resources available.
  2. Break up with your megabank.
    Megabanks continue to invest billions in coal and other fossil fuels, even after pledging to go carbon free.  Green America’s Break Up With Your Megabank Campaign has all the resources you need to move your money to banks and credit unions that invest in local communities and green companies.
  3. Take the Divest/Invest Pledge.
    The Divest/Invest coalition is asking people to take their pledge to divest to demonstrate the growing numbers of individual investors who are saying no to fossil fuels in their portfolios.
  4. Share this information widely.
    Encourage family, friends, your house of worship, school, etc. to divest their money from fossil fuels as well.  The faster the movement grows, the more pressure there will be on polluters.

The People’s Climate March – 400,000 strong – demonstrated that Americans are willing to take action for climate change and are not going to wait for Washington or all Street to take action. We can all take action with our money for the climate. In the 1980’s the divestment movement made a huge impact on ending Apartheid in South Africa. Now, it’s our turn to divest our money from fossil fuels and invest in the clean energy economy we need.

Take action today!

CEVBs at the Congressional Renewable Energy Expo

This July, Green America attended the Congressional Renewable Energy Expo on Capitol Hill to tell policy makers and clean energy industry leaders all about the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014. The bill, which has been introduced to the House of Representatives by Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), seeks to provide new financing for clean energy projects including wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as home and commercial energy efficiency technologies. The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) stopped by our booth to ask us a few questions about CEVBs. Watch their interview below, read more about the bill here, and contact your Representative and urge him or her to support clean energy in the US.

President Obama: “Invest in What Helps, Divest from What Harms.”

This past weekend, President Obama delivered a commencement speech to UC Irvine, in which he urged the graduating class to take challenges related to climate change seriously.  In his address, the President called out members of Congress for resisting efforts to address climate change, asserting that there was no substance behind some peoples’ rejection of the scientific consensus on the issue.

The President used his speech to announce a $1 billion dollar fund, the National Disaster Resilience Competition, to be made available to states having endured a  national disaster between 2011 and 2013 for the purpose of rebuilding infrastructure to better withstand shocks from the environment.

He also stated that this graduating class’s generation, which includes the largest age group in the country (22), faces many challenges and opportunities in dealing with this issue ahead.

“We need scientists to design new fuels.  We need farmers to help grow them.  We need engineers to invent new technologies.  We need entrepreneurs to sell those technologies. We need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components.  We need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a clean energy age.  We need diplomats and businessmen and women, and Peace Corps volunteers to help developing nations skip past the dirty phase of development and transition to sustainable sources of energy…You need to invest in what helps, and divest from what harms.”

The President’s address should serve as a reminder that we face the challenges posed by climate change together. While there are many steps we can take individually to reduce our carbon footprint and increase resilience to climate change, we also need to act on a large scale. Clean Energy Victory Bonds are a coordinated effort we can make by collectively investing in the technologies that will power the future without releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By calling your representative and urging him or her to sponsor the CEVB Act of 2014, we can make significant progress towards funding clean energy technologies, reducing our carbon footprint, and increasing our long-term resilience to the effects of a changing climate on our towns, cities, and our country as a whole.  Clean Energy Victory Bonds already have 28 co-sponsors (and growing) – reach out to your Rep today and help keep the momentum going!

U.N. Reports on Climate Change Mitigation

The latest installment of the U.N’s fifth Climate Assessment Report explores what we must do in order to lessen the negative impacts of a changing climate. 

As our understanding of climate change continues to develop, we hear more and more about a few particularly important numbers: to ensure that average global temperature increase does not exceed 2oC by the year 2100, we mustn’t allow the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to exceed 350 ppm (parts per million). Currently, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is about 400ppm, with an additional 2ppm emitted each year. Accounting for population and economic growth, CO2 concentrations are projected land between 750 and 1,300 ppm by the end of the century. To offset the emissions resulting from this growth, we need to substantially cut emissions by 2050 (by 40-70%), and to completely cease emissions by 2100.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, released its third working group summary this weekend in Berlin, Germany, as a part of its fifth Climate Assessment Report. Previous working group summaries have tackled the physical scientific aspects of changing climate systems, as well as impacts, adaptations, and vulnerabilities for people across the globe. The latest installment examines the topic of mitigation: the “human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.”

There are currently great efforts underway to achieve both goals of greenhouse gas mitigation. Forests are one of our most valuable carbon sinks; trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and use energy from the sun to convert the gas into glucose in a process called photosynthesis. Across the planet, reforestation projects aim to preserve the ecosystem services that trees offer.

www.freefoto.com But covering the globe in trees is not enough to keep CO2 out of the atmosphere, especially when economic growth depends on burning the fossil fuels that emit so much of the gas. Between 2000 and 2010, the IPCC reports, the “contribution of economic and population growth to CO2 emissions has outpaced emission reduction from improvements in energy intensity.” The panel cites the increased use of coal as a cheap, abundant energy source in developing nations as the cause of the reversal of the long-standing trend of gradual decarbonization of the world’s energy supply.

With ever-increasing demand for modern goods and services in countries where the population is growing at a rapid pace, restricting fossil fuels would cause significant immediate damage to highly vulnerable communities. The only way to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted by our energy infrastructure is to update it – to find a viable substitute that can meet the demands of a world literally packed with people without contributing to carbon emissions. The developing world is waiting for wealthy countries to lead the way, starting with the U.S. And as a country that already has the technology available to make this possible, the remaining impediments to clean energy are largely political. The United States needs a new approach to make financing available for the expansion of solar, wind and other clean energy sources.

That’s why Green America is promoting the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014. Sponsored by US Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Doris Matsui, the CEVB Act of 2014 would issue United States Treasury bonds that would be available to all Americans for purchase. The funds raised from the sale of the bonds would go directly towards tax credits that clean energy industries, like wind and solar, as well as energy efficiency projects, depend upon. You can do your part to make the long-term investments needed to ensure that we won’t have to burn fossil fuels for much longer. Call your Representative, tell him or her you want to invest in a clean energy future, and urge him or her to co-sponsor the bill today.

Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014 Introduced by Reps Lofgren & Matsui

Today, US Representatives Zoe Lofgren and Doris Matsui, along with 15 original co-sponsors, introduced the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014. The bill is now before the House of Representatives, and not a moment too soon.

ImageThe Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014, or CEVB for short, is modeled after one of the most successful fundraising efforts in US history. In World War II, millions of Americans purchased over $185 billion (over $2 trillion in today’s dollars) worth of Victory Bonds issued by the United States Treasury, in order to fund the war effort. The bonds allowed citizens to invest directly in the materials and technologies needed to achieve victory in one of the most destructive wars in human history.

Today, however, we face different problems – a rapidly changing climate, rising sea levels, and more intense weather events like Hurricane Sandy put our infrastructure and economy at risk. Our outdated energy systems continue to inefficiently burn fossil fuels, and the extraction of these fuels continues to degrade ecosystems across the planet. Renewable energy and energy efficient technologies are a promising solution to these crises, but a lack of funding makes them unappealing to industrial-scale investors.

The United States also risks losing its position as a clean energy leader.  China, Germany and other nations are outspending the US in the clean energy race and are already seeing the benefits of increased jobs and plentiful clean energy.

Clean Energy Victory Bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, will allow any American to invest in a clean energy future for as little as $25. The sale of the bonds is projected to raise up to $50 billion, which would leverage an additional $100 billion from private investors. The money raised would fund essential tax credits to renewable sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, as well as energy-efficiency programs. Continued support of these industries will reduce the demand for fossil fuels, reduce the amount of CO2 poured into the atmosphere, and create at least 1 million well-paying jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. With oil companies still receiving massive government subsidies, a fundraising effort of great proportions is needed to level the playing field for clean energy technologies.

If you want to invest in our nation’s energy future by purchasing CEVBs, call your Representative in Congress and tell him or her to co-sponsor the Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014. With your help, we can transition our economy from one that relies on dirty fossil fuels to a clean energy economy that provides real opportunities for our citizens, all while protecting our homes from catastrophic climate change. For more information, please visit www.cleanenergyvictorybonds.org.

New Financing for Clean Energy – Clean Energy Victory Bonds

As climate change and rising fuel costs, especially natural gas prices, generate headline news, it becomes ever more apparent that we need to invest in renewable energy. Clean Energy Victory Bonds can play a crucial role in securing the financing necessary to shift our energy sourcing to cleaner options.  This bond evokes the spirit of one of the greatest fundraising efforts in our nation’s history. During World War II, over 80% of American households bought at least one victory bond, raising the equivalent of over $2 trillion in today’s dollars. Inspired by the efforts of previous generations, the victory bond is being rebooted to face the energy challenges of the 21st century. The Clean Energy Victory Bond would support solar, wind, second generation biofuels, and energy efficiency programs needed to build the clean U.S. economy that the times require.

Green America CEO and President Alisa Gravitz speaks at a briefing on Capitol Hill, Feb 24, 2014.
Green America CEO and President Alisa Gravitz speaks at a briefing on Capitol Hill, Feb 24, 2014.

Americans are increasingly aware of just how large a challenge climate change poses to our communities, as well as the role of fossil fuels in creating this global crisis. Fortunately, the shift from dirty energy to clean sources is well underway. For example, in 2013, a new solar energy system was installed every four minutes. By the beginning of 2014, the US had installed 12 gigawatts of solar capacity, producing as much energy as 14.5 coal-fired power plants. Wind power in the United States has been rapidly increasing as well, with over 14.2 gigawatts of capacity installed since 2012. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the projects currently under construction have the potential to power 3.5 million American households, or all the homes in Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas combined.

Financing for clean energy like wind and solar complements these observed increases in capacity. Annual solar installation, both residential and commercial, has grown by more than 1,600% since the Investment Tax Credit was implemented in 2006. Funding for large-scale solar projects announced in 2013 reached $13.6 billion, up from $8.7 billion the previous year. Similarly, the US Wind industry has attracted nearly $90 billion of private investment into new infrastructure over the past five years. The Production Tax Credit has been instrumental in encouraging this growth – in December of 2012, wind producers installed 5.5 gigawatts of capacity as the expiration of the PTC neared.  Both wind and solar energy employ significant sections of the American workforce. Wind power currently employs more than 75,000 Americans, and for the first time ever, the US solar industry now employs more workers than the US auto manufacturing industry. [1]

While this growth is monumental in its own light, it still pales in comparison to the portion of our energy mix that fossil fuels provide. From 2002-2008, traditional fossil fuels received $70.2 billion of federal subsidies, while renewables received just $12.2 billion over the same time period. Legislators allow federal incentives like the Production Tax Credit to expire and then retroactively reinstate them, creating uncertainty in renewable energy markets. This limits growth in sectors like wind energy, and shifts support to more favorable countries like China and Germany.

The Clean Energy Victory Bond will protect the tax incentives essential to clean energy sources and energy efficiency initiatives, while simultaneously offering a reliable investment vehicle backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. By fostering these sectors of the green economy, the bill stands to create more than 1 million high-paying jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.

Thousands of Americans have already pledged to purchase the bonds once they become available, and you can too. You can also call your representative and urge him or her to support the bill once it is on the floor. We must work on both sides of the aisle to reduce our dependence on dirty, imported fossil fuels, create jobs for millions of Americans, and protect our environment with clean, American-made energy sources. As Green America’s CEO and President Alisa Gravitz put it, “Clean energy is joyfully bi-partisan.” The only side you need to choose here is the one that leads the US into the future running on clean, safe, domestic power!


[1] U.S. Energy Information Administration and Solar Foundation

Green America supports the EPA in regulating power plants

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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 of our members, Green America strongly supports the EPA using its authority under section 1119(d) of the clean air act to develop and issue standards by June 2014 to address carbon pollution from power plants.  We also support president Obama’s directive to build on state innovations and leadership in reducing climate emissions.

The need to regulate carbon is clear.  Carbon emissions are at their highest levels ever and the effects of those emissions on climate change are now undeniable.  This impacts not only the environment, but also the economy.

Small business owners will be negatively affected by climate change.  From disruptions in their supply chains, to physical damage and disruptions of their operations from increasingly extreme weather, small businesses are at a high risk from rising greenhouse gas emissions.

That is why polling conducted by the American sustainable business council found that 63 percent of small businesses owners support EPA regulation of carbon emissions from power plants and 72 percent support incentives for clean energy.

Regulating existing power plants will help to protect small business owners and will be good for the economy in general:

  • According to data from Natural Resources Defense Council, reducing carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020 would cost 4 billion dollars, but would create economic benefits of 25 to 60 billion dollars.  The benefits could outweigh the costs by a factor of 15.
  • These projected benefits would be in line with prior economic advantages from enforcement of the clean air act.  EPA analysis demonstrates that the benefits of emissions reductions from 1990 to 2010 outweighed the costs four to one.

EPA regulations of existing power plants will also spur greater innovations in clean energy technologies, which will boost the economy, job creation, and small businesses nationwide.

  • Several studies have found that renewable energy generation produces more jobs than fossil fuel sources of energy per unit of energy delivered.
  • Renewable energy jobs also are often better paying jobs and are much more likely to stay in the U.S.
  • Many of the clean energy jobs created – including manufacturing and installation – are housed in small businesses that are thriving and creating jobs across the country, including in regions that have lost jobs from the closures of traditional manufacturing facilities.

For all of the above reasons, Green America and its members support the EPA proposing strong carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.

Thank you.