As presidential candidates prepare positions on energy policy, a coalition of U.S. citizen groups is calling for the phase-out of natural gas, coal and nuclear power in favor of a more aggressive adoption of renewable-energy sources.
Thirty-six local organizations who say they represent 1.1 million members reject President Obama’s “all of the above” approach to energy policy, saying it perpetuates the dominance of fossil fuels while avoiding what they call the “real solutions” of clean energy.
Continuation of the status quo endangers public health through such techniques as hydraulic fracturing for natural gas or mountain-top removal for coal, while undermining energy independence and the economic boost that would come with stimulating domestically produced renewable energy, the coalition says.
It accuses the energy industry of seeking to block change while receiving subsidies from the federal government.
The coalition is co-led by the Civil Society Institute, a Massachusetts-based think-tank, which found in April that 83 percent of Americans believe Congress should enact energy policies that protect health, promote energy independence and nurture economic growth. The poll also found that 77 percent believe the fossil-fuel industry is resisting the adoption of renewable-energy policies.
“As this research shows, the vast majority of Americans agree that we need clean, renewable energy, and don’t want big subsidies flowing to oil and nuclear companies,” the group said in a statement.
Favoring a Grassroots Approach
The groups, which say they work in 23 states, range from the Responsible Drilling Alliance to Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Powder River Basin Resource Council. They do not include national environmental groups such as the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, or the Environmental Defense Fund.
CSI President Pam Solo said the initiative is being led by grassroots groups because they have the expertise on local conditions, and have the best chance of achieving the coalition’s goals.
“We wanted to bring together people who are outside the Beltway,” Solo wrote in an email. “Nearly every major social change in the U.S. has been initiated and led by the people and groups most immediately affected by the problem addressed.”
The statement calls on state, local and federal authorities that manage energy generation, power distribution and rate setting to create a “level playing field” that takes environmental and public health risks into account.
Other proposals in a nine-point “American Clean Energy Agenda” include educating and mobilizing the public to demand renewable-energy policies; exposing the “misleading tactics” of energy lobbyists and publicists, and enhancing the renewable-energy portfolio standards already pursued by many states.
The coalition is working on its “wish-list” of energy policies for the first 100 days of a new administration, Solo said. Demands will center on energy efficiency programs; tax credits for solar and wind power, and eliminating tax breaks and other federal subsidies for the gas, oil, coal and nuclear industries.
“Subsidies that now go to dead-end schemes such as Carbon Capture and Sequestration in pursuit of ‘clean coal’ should be aimed at new technologies that will take away the health and environmental hazards from mining, drilling and intensive water use that presents enormous problems for other commercial and agricultural uses,” Solo said.
The coalition also called for an end to the export of “dirty energy” which they said endangers public health while compromising energy independence. “Forcing U.S. industries to compete with other nations for domestic supplies is likely to drive up prices dramatically and may cause them to relocate overseas,” it said.