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Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

From February 16 & 28, 2011

With  phenomenal speed in a seemingly covert legislative action, the US PATRIOT extensions moved through the House and Senate in 10 days this past month, February 2011. An overview on what happened in the House & Senate ~ http://bit.ly/icSZZA

The glimmer of blue sky is that the Senate only upped the Patriot Act for 90 days (unlike the House Valentine’s Day vote for ten months) so the window is now through May 27, 2011. Considering ‘they’ herded the US PATRIOT Act through so effectively, ‘they’ will again ‘speed’ this through the Senate soon.

Reality is our legislative leaders do not want to hear from The People on the US PATRIOT Act. ‘They’ are highly-paid to effectively manage their constituents and from their activity in February, it is clear we are not on their list.

On the other hand, if we act quickly and decisively, there is a promising opportunity for us to gather, organize as we come together to begin to abolish the Patriot Act. Let’s ADD to past call-to-actions. Before we got together to make phone calls and send emails, letters. Thanks for your help in spreading the word, your support and for taking action.

Our best course of action is to assemble peacefully in numbers. Our only chance is for us to move forward together to demand greater freedom and civil liberties as well as accountability from our government.

As we gather together, we demand the Senate listen to the people. That the people want to dismantle the US PATRIOT Act and see the process started now. The people will be heard, our personal liberties are written in the US Bill of Rights, not in the US PATRIOT Act!

Discovered in the U.S. Senate Calendar ~ Select Committee on Intelligence in the Senate is met on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 2pm, Room SH-211. Hart Office Building. Dianne Feinstein, of California, Chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV, of West Virginia, Ron Wyden, of Oregon, Barbara A. Mikulski, of Maryland, Bill Nelson, of Florida, Kent Conrad, of North Dakota, Mark Udall, of Colorado & Mark R. Warner, of Virginia. A key focus of this group is the US PATRIOT Act and Sen. Feinstein is fostering the extension to three-years also at President Obama’s recommendation ~ a notable step toward removing the sunset clauses in the US PATRIOT Act. Anyone know how it went?

And a recent act of civil disobedience not covered by mainstream media ~ Ray McGovern’s violent arrest February 15, 2011 at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s address with her expressing concern for protection of the Internet and US calling for protesters, civil rights respect in other countries. Here’s the video ~ http://bit.ly/dUwfcx. Mr. McGovern in the audience, a 71 year old military, CIA veteran, stood and turned his back to Clinton as she addressed, in peaceful protest. Security quickly and violently hauled him out of there, arresting him for disorderly conduct. Most notable was Sec. Clinton’s giving her address without pause. Read Rory O’Connor’s blog ~ http://bit.ly/g5lhyw

Response to the arrest of Ray McGovern ~ “It is the ultimate definition of lip service that Secretary of State Clinton would be trumpeting the U.S. government’s supposed concerns for free speech rights and this man [Raymond McGovern] would be simultaneously brutalized and arrested for engaging in a peaceful act of dissent at her speech,” stated McGovern’s attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of PCJF (Partnership for Civil Justice).

Back to the US Patriot Act and surprisingly,  Sen. Feinstein/CA the US PATRIOT Act extension for three years and that’s also President Obama’s recommendation to Congress. A three-year extension marks a key attempt to remove the sunset clauses as well as strengthening the scope, reach of intrusion by U.S. intelligence communities into peoples’ homes, businesses and everyday lives domestically.

The charade is our government still frames the Patriot Act as important for national security against terrorists, originally created as a response to 9/11. Now in force 10 years, the Patriot Act has flourished, opening our front door to FBI and intelligence intrusions down to the granular bits of what books we take out of the library.

Alarmingly, anti-war, peace activists and opposing forces to the Patriot Act are rebranded as ‘terrorists.’ Then once under investigation, the harassed are forbidden from speaking about it. Due process and search/seizure-related civil protections are clearly circumvented by today’s Patriot Act, crossing the line in limiting personal freedoms and privacy, making a farce of democracy and freedom in America.

We call for your help and ask you to GET UP, STAND UP with us! Defeat civil rights-infringing legislation before Congress in 2011!

Senate passes 90-day extension of Patriot Act

FreeSpeech Radio, 2/15/11 ~ The US House once again took up the reauthorization of the Patriot Act today, passing the Senate version. Earlier this week, the House passed a 10-month extension. But yesterday the Senate passed a version that only extended for 90 days. California Republican David Drier supported the Senate version.

“In ensuring that we don’t see the expiration of these very important three provisions of the Patriot Act, I’m going to urge my colleagues to support this rule.”

The three provisions are the so-called “lone wolf” provision, which allows monitoring of foreign nations not connected to terrorist organizations; a provision that allows searchers access to “any tangible thing” related to a terrorism suspect; and the “roving wiretap provision,” which Colorado Democrat Jared Polis questioned for lack of oversight.

“There’s nothing to restrict it from being used to tap the phones of an entire neighborhood, and entire block, and entire city. Has it been used for that? I don’t know, because we haven’t had yet a classified briefing on this matter.”

The three-month extension passed 254 to 176, largely along party lines.

Want to join our action? Drop a comment here.

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BREAKING ~ With regard to the Patriot Act in the House of Representatives, the YEA’s have it. 275-144 and the Patriot Act passed, evening of 2/14/11.

February 12, 2011

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives rejected legislation extending key provisions of the Patriot Act, watch here ~ http://bit.ly/eOjSez.

In an active response from America, concerned citizens took action by contracting Congress, demanding they vote down the Patriot Act H.R. 514 and on February 8th Congress did just that!

The TROUBLING NEWS is that it’s up for another vote on Monday, Feb 14th, so we (again) strongly encourage contacting your representative in the House. Demand they defeat the Patriot Act H.R. 514.

Taking action is easy and quick, just follow this link ~ http://bit.ly/htAkJf from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, eff.org to send an email to Congress and your representative.

We also invite you to call your congressperson direct and leave a comment, certainly before the vote on Monday, Valentine’s Day at 2pm eastern. Here’s a handy link to contact Congress ~ http://bit.ly/hZr8xf

BREAKING: The Patriot Act H.R. 514 is in the House of Representatives TODAY (2/14/11) and will be debated at 5pm eastern, VOTED ON at 6:30 pm eastern. Please make your calls, send your email to Congress NOW!

You may also gather at federal buildings across the nation to peacefully assemble and demand Congress Defeat the Patriot Act, H.R. 514. Let them know the Patriot Act is UNPATRIOTIC!

Our first assembly to reclaim civil liberties, demanding Congress vote down these Patriot Act extensions and protests will continue as the Patriot Act travels through Congress.

Stand for greater civil liberties, freedom and privacy for citizens in America, Defeat the Patriot Act H.R. 514!

Key reasons to VOTE DOWN the Patriot Act provisions:

  • The Patriot Act has not established that any of the powers given to the FBI and other intelligence agencies have actually PREVENTED acts of terrorism. What’s worse is the Patriot Act severely limits our personal freedoms and privacy. And now with the F.B.I. claiming peace protesters are ‘terrorists,’ our right to dissent also goes out the window.
  • There is no oversight or accountability written into these key provisions of the Patriot Act. We suggest that Congress investigate the F.B.I., or hold the F.B.I. accountable for >40,000 of abuses as noted by eff.org here http://bit.ly/f0Jfcn

The Patriot Act severely limits civil liberties and personal privacy. Additionally the provisions that Congress is voting on actually EXPANDS the reach and ‘teeth’ of the Patriot Act, H.R. 514.

The more people participating and taking action over now, the better the our chances of voting the Patriot Act down again.

Yet be aware that the Patriot Act Valentine’s Day vote has much better odds of passing (we do not want this) as the House of Representative voting procedures required only greater than 50% to renew the Patriot Act. It’s clear the backers of expanding and renewing H.R. 514, the Patriot Act are attempting to sneak this by us and Congress. Don’t let them get away with it!

Do not allow H.R. 514 be renewed or enhanced. Stand for your rights now and make the call, send the email. Also, forward this note to your friends and family.

Thank you for joining me in TAKING ACTION TODAY!

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Laurel Krause, November 29, 2010

The government crossed the line
in the killing of four young people
in the killing of our Allison
as she rallied against the war on May 4, 1970
A civil rights battle on U.S. soil in our times
Kent State is personal for us yet important for all

Representative Dennis Kucinich
upon learning of the new audio truth
discovered in the Kent State Tape
Launched a Kent State congressional inquiry
and scheduled a hearing
Calling for swift examination of the new evidence
found in the Kent State Tape
Scheduling a Kent State hearing before Congress
before the Domestic Policy subcommittee
for Wednesday, December 1st, this week

Yet In these political times
with Congress soon adjourning for 2010
and our government’s concerted effort
to keep truth at Kent State covered up
Kucinich’s Congressional Kent State Hearing is
AT HIGH RISK OF CANCELLATION

Allison’s family asks all who read this
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD
Join our urgent Kent State Call-2-Action
Demand Truth at Kent State in 2010
Send a note to http://kucinich.house.gov/Contact/
Make a call to 202-225-5871
Send inbound calls to Representative Kucinich
HOLD the KENT STATE HEARING
this week, on Wednesday December 1st at 2 p.m.

Arthur Krause knew the importance
of the Kent State Tape
My dad knew it held the truth
of what happened at Kent State
even though back in 1970
and until just recently
truth from the Kent State Tape was locked up
in a jumbled maze of analog antiquity
Dad passed away over 20 years ago
He knew the truth in the Kent State Tape

A patriot and WWII soldier
Dad believed the American dream
When Allison his firstborn
a freshman at Kent State University
was protesting the Vietnam war on her campus
He never anticipated the American apocalypse
our family would endure
at the hands of our government

Like Sandy, Jeff and Bill
our Allison was shot dead at Kent State
Homicide by national guard gunfire
Dad knew they got away with murder
at Kent State University
just after noon on May 4, 1970

Over the next ten years
Dad sought truth and justice at Kent State
demanding to know what happened to our Allison
Taking it to the courts yielded only
road blocks, cover-ups and threats
Every effort to uncover and face
the deadly inhumanity of Kent State
was completely thwarted

A series of seamless stonewalls
Never examining the wrongs of Kent State
No accountability for the killings of Kent State
Not one person or group ever held responsible
Not one apology uttered

Yet governmental claims were consistent:
There was no order to fire
The Guard reacted to sniper fire
The Guard felt under attack from the students

A government-fabricated pack of lies
that has now transformed
into the recorded history
of the killings of Kent State
That is … until 2010
and the examination of the Kent State Tape

40 years after the shootings
the Kent State Tape that Dad held so dear
that was used as evidence in his court cases
finally examined using
tools of state-of-the-art audio technology
unlocking the true record of what occurred
at Kent State on May 4, 1970

Sounds expertly analyzed by
world-class forensic scientist Stuart Allen
commissioned by the Cleveland Plain Dealer
to explore the Kent State Tape
for the very first time

Whether copy or original is moot
Truth is recorded in the Kent State Tape
A tape does not remember, forget or change its story
The Kent State Tape does not lie

At the Kent State Truth Tribunal in NYC
October 2010 with Stuart Allen examining
Hearing and unraveling the labyrinth of deadly sounds
including shots and national guard commands
and a violent altercation with FBI-paid Terry Norman
all contributing to the shootings at Kent State 1970

The government denied
orders to fire were isolated, heard and verified
orders of Guard, Prepare to Fire
orders of Alright, Guard, Fiii-
with the last word of the deadly order stepped on
by a barrage of 67 shots over 13 seconds

At unarmed students changing classes at noon
At unarmed students more than a football field away
At unarmed students rallying against the Vietnam War
At unarmed students rallying against the military occupation of their campus
in a battle where American dissent was also slaughtered

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MendoCoastCurrent, June 24, 2010

Public institutions and private sector organizations from across the country should form a coalition to help states, localities and regions develop and deploy successful and cost-effective electric demand response programs, a new Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff report says.

The coalition effort is the centerpiece of the National Action Plan on Demand Response Report , issued today, that identifies strategies and activities to achieve the objectives of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

“There is strength in numbers. Coalitions harness the combined energy of individual organizations, producing results that can go far beyond what can be accomplished on an individual basis,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “The success of this National Action Plan depends on all interested public and private supporters working to implement it.”

The public-private coalition outlined in the National Action Plan would coordinate and combine the efforts of state and local officials, utilities and demand response providers, regional wholesale power market operators, electricity consumers, the federal government and other interest groups. Demand response refers to the ability of customers to adjust their electricity use by responding to price signals, reliability concerns or signals from the grid operator. Demand response is a valuable resource for meeting the nation’s energy needs.

The 2007 law required FERC to identify the requirements for technical assistance to states so they can maximize the amount of demand response that can be developed and deployed; design and identify requirements for a national communications program that includes broad-based customer education and support; and develop or identify analytical tools, information, model regulations and contracts and other materials for use by customers, states, utilities and demand response providers.

The National Action Plan applies to the entire country, yet recognizes Congress’ intent that state and local governments play an important role in developing demand response. It is the result of more than two years of open, transparent consultation with all interested groups to help states, localities and regions develop demand response resources.

The National Action Plan on Demand Response is available at here.

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Editor’s Note: To learn more about the Kent State Truth Tribunal 2010, please go to www.TruthTribunal.org and pre-register to participate as well as support us with your generous donation. Thanks!

From 1970 to 1980, Senator Kennedy was our single-best crusader from Congress in supporting my family’s attempts to learn the truth about the Kent State Massacre where my protesting sister, Allison Krause, was murdered. We grieve for Senator Kennedy and deeply thank him for always listening to our pain and working alongside my father, Arthur S. Krause, in his fight to have my sister’s death not be vain. Rest in peace, Senator Kennedy. Know that your compassion and tremendous life force had immense positive impact on my family and America.

BRIAN MERCHANT, Treehugger, August 26, 2009

edward-kennedy-green-tributeKennedy was a masterful politician and an effective, aggressive reformer–he was instrumental in shaping the policies, ideology, and face of modern America. More so, as Slate argues, than any other Kennedy. And though he may have more famous achievements (immigration reform, expanding health care, civil rights for the handicapped) he was also a champion of environmental causes. Here, we pay tribute to the less celebrated–but no less important–legacy of green achievements he left behind.

And it’s a pretty staggering list of achievements–from cosponsoring the first bill to put fuel economy standards in place, to tightening regulations on oil companies, to fighting to keep ANWR safe, to being an early proponent of renewable energy promotion, Kennedy has a long history of championing green causes and protecting the environment.

Here are some green highlights:

Holding Oil Companies Accountable During consideration of a 1975 tax cut proposal, Kennedy introduced a provision targeting the oil depletion allowance, which since 1926 had enabled oil producers to exclude 22 percent of their revenues from any taxes. Kennedy’s initiative passed overwhelmingly, trimming the allowance for independent producers and ending it for the major oil companies.

Raising Fuel Economy Standards

Senator Kennedy has a long and distinguished record supporting clean renewable sources of energy and reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. More than 30 years ago he cosponsored the first law to establish fuel economy standards. And in 2007, he supported a law which increased fuel economy standards, which is essential to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Improving Energy Efficiency

Senator Kennedy was a strong proponent of increasing energy efficiency, which is an essential part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He was a long time supporter of programs like the weatherization assistance program and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program that helps those most in need reduce their energy bills by improving home energy efficiency.

Kennedy Fought to Cleanup Brownfields Sites and Revitalize Local Communities

In 2001, Senator Kennedy was a lead sponsor of the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act, which authorized funds for assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites.

Of course, he did much more in his six terms as senator, but there’s not room to print the entire list here. But it’s safe to say that the US is a greener place thanks to his efforts. Ted Kennedy was one of the most powerful, respected, and influential senators in US history–his progressive vision and will be sorely missed.

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Ken Salazar, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, July 26, 2009

Ken SalazarJust north of the Colorado-New Mexico border, in the sunny expanses of my native San Luis Valley, America’s clean energy future is taking root.

Under President Obama’s leadership, four tracts of land in southern Colorado and two dozen tracts across six Western states may soon be supplying American homes with clean, renewable electricity from the first large-scale solar power projects on our nation’s public lands.

The 24 Solar Energy Study Areas that Interior is evaluating for environmentally appropriate solar energy development could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity, enough to power more than 29 million American homes.

The West’s vast solar energy potential – along with wind, geothermal and other renewables – can power our economy with affordable energy, create thousands of new jobs and reduce the carbon emissions that are warming our planet.

As President Obama has said, we can remain the world’s largest importer of oil or we can become the world’s largest exporter of clean energy. The choice is clear, and the economic opportunities too great to miss. Will we rise to the challenge?

It is time that Washington step up to the plate, just as states like Colorado and local governments are already doing. Congress must pass strong and effective legislation that will steer our nation toward a clean energy economy that creates new jobs and improves our energy security.

We will not fully unleash the potential of the clean energy economy unless Congress puts an upper limit on the emissions of heat-trapping gases that are damaging our environment. Doing so will level the playing field for new technologies by allowing the market to put a price on carbon, and will trigger massive investment in renewable energy projects across the country.

We are also seeing the dangerous consequences of climate change: longer and hotter fire seasons, reduced snow packs, rising sea levels and declines of wildlife. Farmers, ranchers, municipalities and other water users in Colorado and across the West are facing the possibility of a grim future in which there is less water to go around.

But with comprehensive clean energy legislation from Congress, sound policies and wise management of our nation’s lands and oceans, we can change the equation.

That is why I am changing how the federal government does business on the 20% of the nation’s land mass and 1.75 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf that we oversee. We are now managing these lands not just for balanced oil, natural gas, and coal development, but also – for the first time ever – to allow environmentally responsible renewable energy projects that can help power President Obama’s vision for our clean energy future.

American business is responding to these new opportunities. Companies are investing in wind farms off the Atlantic seacoast, solar facilities in the Southwest and geothermal energy projects throughout the West. We need comprehensive legislation that will create new jobs, promote investment in a new generation of energy technology, break our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Let us rise to the energy challenges of our time.

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TOM DOGGETT, Reuters, March 12, 2009

WASHINGTON – Congress should give the federal government more authority to approve extra powerful transmission lines to move electricity generated by renewable sources, overriding state objections when necessary, a top energy regulator said on Thursday.

Broader federal authority would help meet President Barack Obama’s goal of doubling U.S. production of renewable energy like solar and wind power in the next three years, said Jon Wellinghoff, acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee.

This could help cut greenhouse gas emissions spewed by coal-fired power plants that contribute to global warming, he said.

The timely siting of electric transmission facilities will be essential to meeting our nation’s goal of reducing reliance on carbon-emitting sources of electric energy and bringing new sources of renewable energy to market,” Wellinghoff said at a Senate Energy Committee hearing on new transmission lines.

At the end of the day if there is a state who blocks a line that’s in the national public interest I think, unfortunately, there needs to be a federal override,” he said.

Congress gave FERC authority to site and permit electric transmission lines crossing state borders within important corridors with grid congestion. But a federal court ruled FERC cannot use this authority if a state denies a transmission project in a timely manner.

Without broader federal siting authority … it is unlikely that the nation will be able to achieve energy security and economic stability,” Wellinghoff said. 

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, chairman of the energy committee, agreed FERC’s current siting authority is insufficient.

It does not apply to most of the country and does not take into account future need,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, has introduced legislation to give the government broader siting authority for new power lines for renewable energy.

Reid, who also testified at Thursday’s hearing, later told reporters he wanted to roll that bill along with a new national renewable electricity standard into climate change legislation.

The bill he envisions would cap U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and require power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities to buy permits to emit carbon polluting emissions.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to take a similar approach, Reid said:

The House has decided to take them all up together. That’s probably where we’re headed.”

Reid said he hoped the combined bill would clear the Senate this summer. He said he would consider tacking the bill on to budget reconciliation legislation the Senate could pass with a simple majority, without needing 60 votes to stop a filibuster.

Oh I love 51 (votes) compared to 60,” Reid said. “We know that’s an alternative.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, the top Republican on the energy panel, said she opposed combining the energy and climate change bill and folding it into budget legislation.

I also strongly disagree with attempts to do an end run around Congress and mandate what would be the biggest change in our energy policy in the nation’s history through the budget reconciliation process,” she said.

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KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times, February 4, 2009

imagesWind and solar energy have been growing at a blistering pace in recent years, and that growth seemed likely to accelerate under the green-minded Obama administration. But because of the credit crisis and the broader economic downturn, the opposite is happening: installation of wind and solar power is plummeting.

Factories building parts for these industries have announced a wave of layoffs in recent weeks, and trade groups are projecting 30 – 50% declines this year in installation of new equipment, barring more help from the government.

Prices for turbines and solar panels, which soared when the boom began a few years ago, are falling. Communities that were patting themselves on the back just last year for attracting a wind or solar plant are now coping with cutbacks.

“I thought if there was any industry that was bulletproof, it was that industry,” said Rich Mattern, the mayor of West Fargo, N.D., where DMI Industries of Fargo operates a plant that makes towers for wind turbines. Though the flat Dakotas are among the best places in the world for wind farms, DMI recently announced a cut of about 20% of its work force because of falling sales.

Much of the problem stems from the credit crisis that has left Wall Street banks reeling. Once, as many as 18 big banks and financial institutions were willing to help finance installation of wind turbines and solar arrays, taking advantage of generous federal tax incentives. But with the banks in so much trouble, that number has dropped to four, according to Keith Martin, a tax and project finance specialist with the law firm Chadbourne & Parke.

Wind and solar developers have been left starved for capital. “It’s absolutely frozen,” said Craig Mataczynski, president of Renewable Energy Systems Americas, a wind developer. He projected his company would build just under half as much this year as it did last year.

The two industries are hopeful that President Obama’s economic stimulus package will help. But it will take time, and in the interim they are making plans for a dry spell.

Solar energy companies like OptiSolar, Ausra, Heliovolt and Sun Power, once darlings of investors, have all had to lay off workers. So have a handful of companies that make wind turbine blades or towers in the Midwest, including Clipper Windpower, LM Glasfiber and DMI.

Some big wind developers, like NextEra Energy Resources and even the Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, a promoter of wind power, have cut back or delayed their wind farm plans.

Renewable energy sources like biomass, which involves making electricity from wood chips, and geothermal, which harnesses underground heat for power, have also been slowed by the financial crisis, but the effects have been more pronounced on once fast-growing wind and solar.

Because of their need for space to accommodate giant wind turbines, wind farms are especially reliant on bank financing for as much as 50 percent of a project’s costs. For example, JPMorgan Chase, which analysts say is the most active bank remaining in the renewable energy sector, has invested in 54 wind farms and one solar plant since 2003, according to John Eber, the firm’s managing director for energy investments.

In the solar industry, the ripple effects of the crisis extend all the way to the panels that homeowners put on their roofs. The price of solar panels has fallen by 25% in six months, according to Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, who said he expected a further drop of 10% by midsummer. (For homeowners, however, the savings will not be as substantial, partly because panels account for only about 60% of total installation costs.)

After years when installers had to badger manufacturers to ensure they would receive enough panels, the situation has reversed. Bill Stewart, president of SolarCraft, a California installer, said that manufacturers were now calling to say, “Hey, do you need any product this month? Can I sell you a bit more?”

The turnaround reflects reduced demand for solar panels, and also an increase in supply of panels and of polysilicon, a crucial material in many panels.

On the wind side, turbines that once had to be ordered far in advance are suddenly becoming available.

“At least one vendor has said that they have equipment for delivery in 2009, where nine months ago they wouldn’t have been able to take new orders until 2011,” Mr. Mataczynski of Renewable Energy wrote in an e-mail message. As he has scaled back his company’s plans, he has been forced to cancel some orders for wind turbines, forfeiting the deposit.

Banks have invested in renewable energy, lured by the tax credits. But with banks tightly controlling their money and profits, the main task for the companies is to find new sources of investment capital.

Wind and solar companies have urged Congress to adopt measures that could help revive the market. But even if a favorable stimulus bill passes, nobody is predicting a swift recovery.

“Nothing Congress does in the stimulus bill can put the market back where it was in 2007 and 2008, before it was broken,” said Mr. Martin, the tax lawyer with Chadbourne & Parke. “But it can help at the margins.”

The solar and wind tax credits are structured slightly differently, but the House version of the stimulus bill would help both industries by providing more immediate tax incentives, alleviating some of their dependency on banks.

Both House and Senate would also extend an important tax credit for wind energy, called the production tax credit, for three years; previously the industry had complained of boom-and-bust cycles with the credit having to be renewed nearly every year.

Over the long term, with Mr. Obama focused on a concerted push toward greener energy, the industry remains optimistic.

“You drive across the countryside and there’s more and more wind farms going up,” said Mr. Mattern of West Fargo. “I still have big hopes.”

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MICHAEL FALCONE, The New York Times, January 16, 2009

On January 15, 2009, Senator Ken Salazar pledged to “clean up the mess” at the Interior Department if he is confirmed as the next chief of the department, which has been plagued by ethics scandals.

Mr. Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, also said he shared President Obama’s commitment to ending the country’s dependence on foreign oil, a goal that he said could be achieved, in part, through greater use of renewable resources like solar and wind power.

But he avoided specifics when members of the Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources, who are considering his confirmation, pressed him on whether he supported an expansion of oil extraction from public lands and offshore drilling. 

On the question of whether to open more areas off the coasts to oil exploration, Mr. Salazar said there might be some areas where it would be appropriate and “other places that are off limits.”

The full Senate voted Thursday to set aside two million acres in nine states as protected wilderness. Approval is expected in the House.

Mr. Salazar, who was a farmer and rancher before he entered public life, also promised that on his watch the agency, which has jurisdiction over vast expanses of federal lands, would not be focused solely on the western half of the United States.

“I want this department to be America’s department,” he said.

Mr. Salazar also fielded questions on a variety of other topics, including the Endangered Species Act and changes at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

He kept his answers short, and often vague, but appeared to breeze through the hearing before a committee of his legislative colleagues.

Senator Ron Wyden,  Democrat of Oregon, said that it had turned into a “full-fledged bouquet-tossing contest.”

But Mr. Wyden warned Mr. Salazar that he had some “very heavy lifting ahead,” and sought assurances that he would review some decisions made by Bush administration officials to see if they were politically tainted.

Mr. Salazar said, “We will review what decisions have been made to see whether there is action necessary to make sure that they’re in compliance with the law and to make sure they’re in compliance with the science.”

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MendoCoastCurrent, January 8, 2009

obama-hope1Key President-elect Barack Obama renewable energy quotes from his January 8, 2009 speech to the U.S. Congress and citizens, on his top economic priorities as he takes office.

“. . .the first question that each of us asks isn’t ‘what’s good for me?’ but ‘what’s good for the country my children will inherit?”

On creating new jobs and investing in America’s future:

“This plan must begin today. A plan I’m confident will save and create at least three million jobs over the next few years.”

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Program:

“It’s not just a public works program. It’s a plan that recognizes both the paradox and promise of the moment. The fact that there are millions of Americans trying to find work, even as all around the country there’s so much work to be done and that’s why we’ll invest in priorities like energy and education, healthcare and a new infrastructure that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century. That’s why the overwhelming majority of the jobs created will be in the private sector while our plan will save public sector jobs . . .”

“To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years. We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.”

“In the process, we will put Americans to work in jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced. Jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, constructing fuel efficient cars and buildings, and developing the new energy technologies that will lead to even more jobs, more savings and a cleaner, safer planet in the bargain.”

“The time has come to build a 21st century economy in which hard work and responsibility are once again rewarded.”

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GLOBE-Net, November 28, 2008

congressFive leading U.S. corporations – Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss, Sun Microsystems, and Timberland – have teamed up with the Ceres investor coalition to lobby the U.S. Congress for stronger climate and energy legislation.

These founding members of Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy, BICEP, are urging for government action to ensure future climate change issues do not impact the currently struggling economy further.

“These companies have a clear message for next year’s Congress: move quickly on climate change to kick-start a transition to a prosperous clean energy economy fueled by green jobs,” says Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres.

The global corporations that make up BICEP say that without aggressive government involvement, the move towards a green economy will be arduous and the effects on companies will be devastating.

“Large-scale climate change would have economic, social and environmental consequences for our business and the communities in which we operate,” says Hilary Krane, senior vice president of corporate affairs at Levi Strauss & Co. “We can voluntarily change our own behavior in the hopes of mitigating impacts and are doing so, but we also believe that U.S. government leadership is essential if we are to create an environment in which every U.S. company recognizes the role it must play in addressing climate change and the responsibilities associated with doing business in a carbon-constrained world.”

The coalition members agree that voluntary company efforts to reduce their environmental impact will not be enough to reap the overall benefits and security of a green economy.

“Climate change is a threat to any business that relies on an agricultural product like we do with coffee,” said Ben Packard, Starbucks vice president, global responsibility. “Starbucks believes that addressing climate change will help companies like ours reduce operating costs and mitigate future economic instability due to extreme weather conditions and agricultural loss.”

BICEP’s work will focus on working with members of the business community and with Congress to pass meaningful energy and climate change legislation consistent with the following eight core principles:

1. Set greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets to at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

2. Establish an economy-wide cap-and-trade system that auctions 100% of carbon pollution allowances, promotes energy efficiency and accelerates clean energy technologies.

3. Establish aggressive energy efficiency policies to achieve at least a doubling of the rate of energy efficiency improvement.

4. Encourage transportation for a clean energy economy by promoting fuel-efficient vehicles, plug-in electric hybrids, low-carbon fuels, and transit-oriented development.

5. Increase investment in energy efficiency, renewables, and carbon capture and storage technologies while eliminating subsidies for fossil-fuel industries.

6. Stimulate job growth through investment in climate-based solutions, especially “green-collar” jobs in low-income communities and others vulnerable to climate change’s economic impact.

7. Adopt a national renewables portfolio standard requiring 20% of electricity to be generated from renewable energy sources by 2020, and 30% by 2030.

8. Limit construction of new coal-fired power plants to those that capture and store carbon emissions, create incentives for carbon capture technology on new and existing plants, and phase out existing coal-based power plants that do not capture and store carbon by 2030.

The members of BICEP are not the only ones flexing their muscle on Capitol Hill. In September, Google and General Electric announced a joint effort to lobby Washington on policies that support alternative energy technologies.

Ceres is a coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change.

BICEP members believe that climate change impacts will ripple across all sectors of the economy and that new business perspectives are needed to provide a full spectrum of viewpoints for solving the climate and energy challenges facing the United States.

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TODD WOODY, Green Wombat @ Fortune Magazine, November 13, 2008

The wind, solar and geothermal industries have wasted no time pressing the incoming Obama administration to implement an alternative energy agenda to spur investment and create jobs.

During a conference call Thursday, the leaders of the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association and other trade groups lobbied for a plethora of legislation and policy initiatives. None of these proposals are new, but given Barack Obama’s campaign promises to promote alternative energy and the strengthened Democratic majority in Congress, the industry has the best chance in many years of seeing this wish list made real.

  • A five-year extension of the production tax credit for the wind industry (it currently has to be renewed every year) to remove uncertainty for investors.
  • A major infrastructure program to upgrade the transmission grid so wind, solar and geothermal energy can be transmitted from the remote areas where it is produced to major cities. Obama advisor Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, recently joined with General Electric chief Jeff Immelt to launch a joint initiative to develop such smart grid technology as well as push for policy changes in Washington to allow the widespread deployment of renewable energy by rebuilding the nation’s transmission system.
  • Impose a national “renewable portfolio standard” that would mandate that utilities obtain a minimum 10% of their electricity from green sources by 2012 and at least 25% by 2020. Two-thirds of the states currently impose variations of such requirements.
  • Mandate that the federal government – the nation’s single largest consumer of electricity – obtain more energy from renewable sources.
  • Enact a cap-and-trade carbon market.

“If the administration and Congress can quickly implement these policies, renewable energy growth will help turn around the economic decline while at the same time addressing some of our most pressing national security and environmental problems,” the green energy trade groups said in a joint statement.

No doubt those measures are crucial to spurring development of renewable energy and creating green collar jobs. But the major obstacle confronting the alt energy industry right now is the credit crunch that is choking off financing for big wind and solar projects and scaring away investors from more cutting-edge but potentially promising green technologies.

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MendoCoastCurrent, A Message from Richard Charter, September 29, 2008

The 27-year congressional offshore drilling moratorium will quietly lapse at midnight this Tuesday, September 30. Representing one of the most significant reversals of conservation protection in our time, this tragic event may be overshadowed in the media by the single most threatening economic crisis since the Great Depression.

We are also hearing that we may yet face a last-minute Senate Floor vote on an unspecified proposal by Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina this week, having to do with litigation and expedited OCS leasing.

As a Nation, our Founders long ago established the hallowed tradition of not unnecessarily trashing every part of our natural heritage, and Congress was able to extend this important tradition of preservation to our most sensitive coastal waters by maintaining the OCS moratorium throughout the past twenty-seven years.

During this period of struggle for our coasts, we have had a good run. We need to now rededicate ourselves to the health of our oceans and to the protection of our coastal environment as a matter of survival, and recommit our collective efforts in a new Congress and in each of our states to restoring what has been temporarily taken from us this year in the largest land-grab in U.S. history, while preparing to rebuild similar new protection for our coastal waters in a new Administration.

Our task will not be easy, but it has never been easy. The oil industry is funding Newt Gingrich to hold a big raucus celebration of their “energy independence victory” in Atlanta on Tuesday, but we will not be holding a wake for our coast. We know in our hearts that, in the words of the late David Brower, we are not yet so desperate that we must burn our cathedrals for firewood.

Greed may have temporarily triumphed in the short term through the generous distribution of petrodollars in Congress and the idiotic falsehoods and senseless fear spread by the likes of Fox News, but there is absolutely no other practical path ahead than to pursue an efficient transition to a new energy ethic to be constructively applied throughout the industrial world, beginning in an America that once again leads by positive example.

Attached are some suggested messaging points(HERE) for your consideration and use leading up to this week’s inevitable questions from reporters, and to the potential Senate vote on the DeMint legislation. The oil industry already appears to be planting numerous editorials in coastal states to the effect that residents need not worry, drilling rigs will not appear anytime soon, and these same industry PR efforts are sowing disinformation to the effect that individual states will be able to prevent offshore drilling if they don’t want it.

Thanking every single person who sent emails, wrote condolences, and who shed tears these past few days over just how inept and uncaring Congress could be at this time, thanking each and every single one of you who spent countless hours of volunteer time, some for three decades, to save the coast for our grandchildren, and most of all, reminding you, as if you needed it, that this is absolutely NOT over…

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AYESHA RASCOE, Reuters, September 16, 2008

WASHINGTON  – The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday that lifts a longstanding ban on offshore oil drilling, opening most of the U.S. coastline to exploration.

The package proposed by Democrats would give states the option to allow drilling between 50 and 100 miles (80 and 160 km) off their shores. Areas more than 100 miles from the coast would be completely open to oil exploration and drilling.

The House voted 236 to 189 in favor of the package.

Until recently, Democratic leaders in Congress strongly opposed lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, saying drilling would have only a small impact on gasoline prices in the immediate future.

But as gasoline prices rose to levels above $4 a gallon this summer, public opinion shifted in favor of offshore drilling. Republicans made removing the ban on drilling a key campaign issue for their party in this election year.

With the moratorium facing expiration on September 30 and voter sentiment changing, Democrats supported repealing the ban as part of a larger energy package.

House Republicans, however, strongly protested the Democrats’ package, calling the bill a “sham” and a “hoax.”

The bill faces a possible veto from the White House.

“At a time when American families are in need of genuine relief from the effects of high fuel prices, this bill purports to open access to American energy sources while in reality taking actions to stifle development,” the White House said in a statement.

Opponents of the bill say since the bill does not include a revenue sharing plan, states will not have an incentive to open their coasts to exploration. Another complaint is that the requirement that drilling occur at least 50 miles away from the U.S. coast closes a great deal of the outer continental shelf where oil may be located.

Democrats countered that their package would open 319 million acres to 404 million acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to drilling.

“This legislation is a result of reasonable compromise that will put us on a path to energy independence by expanding domestic supply,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Conservation groups blasted the House bill, however, for not protecting the environment. “As it stands, the clean energy provisions in this bill are dwarfed by the push for outdated, dirty and expensive energy,” said Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke.

Later this week, the Senate is expected to take up energy legislation that would expand offshore drilling, but not as much as the House. Both chambers would have to reconcile differences between their bills before a final energy package could be sent to the White House to be signed into law.

Time is running out for lawmakers to pass legislation as Congress is scheduled to adjourn on September 26.

Other provisions in the House energy package include:

  • Selling 70 million barrels of light crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to be replaced with heavy crude oil.
  • Offering renewable energy and efficiency tax credits that would be funded by repealing some tax breaks for the oil industry.
  • Allowing oil shale development in some western states, if the states approve.

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LARRY ROHTER, The New York Times, August 5, 2008

Senator Barack Obama altered his position on Monday to call for tapping the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to lower gasoline prices as he outlined an energy plan that contrasts with Senator John McCain’s greater emphasis on expanded offshore drilling and coal and nuclear technology.

In a speech here and in a new advertisement, Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, also sought to portray his Republican rival, Mr. McCain, as “in the pocket” of oil giants that are profiting from gasoline priced at more than $4 a gallon. And in his speech, Mr. Obama called for a windfall profits tax on oil companies to finance rebates for Americans.

At the heart of Mr. Obama’s proposals is a focus on fostering alternative energy development by investing $150 billion in emerging technologies and renewable fuels. Seeking to put a million fuel-efficient hybrid plug-in automobiles on the road, he said that he would offer a $7,000 tax credit to buyers, the overall cost of which he did not specify. In addition, Mr. Obama said his goal was to have 10 percent of the country’s energy needs met by renewable resources by the end of his first term, more than double the current figure.

While focusing on alternative energy production, Mr. Obama has veered in recent days toward increasing access to fossil fuels, both in seeking to tap the strategic oil reserve and in softening his opposition to offshore oil drilling. He said he might be willing to accept some exploration of limited offshore drilling as part of a more comprehensive energy bill that would include things he favors, like renewable fuels and batteries for electric-powered cars.

The proposals Mr. Obama offered Monday represented an effort to return the campaign’s focus to bread-and-butter issues after he found himself repeatedly on the defensive last week against a newly aggressive McCain campaign.

“We should sell 70 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks,” Mr. Obama said. “Over the next five years, we should also lease more of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas production, and we should also tap more of our substantial natural gas reserves and work with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska natural gas pipeline, delivering clean natural gas.”

Mr. McCain and his campaign have been increasingly tweaking Mr. Obama and his energy policy. The McCain campaign distributed tire pressure gauges outside the event here in response to Mr. Obama’s statement last week that Americans could reduce gasoline use substantially if they kept car tires at optimum pressure. Mr. McCain has called Mr. Obama “Dr. No” and said that his energy policy could be reduced to the phrase “just say no” to proposals to increase energy production.

“We have to drill here and drill now,” Mr. McCain said Monday in Lafayette Hill, Pa. “Not wait and see if there’s areas to explore, not wait and see if there’s a package to put together. But drill here and drill now.”

Mr. McCain has focused much more on the supply side of the energy equation, supporting increased reliance on nuclear power, the use of so-called clean coal technology and expanded offshore drilling. But he has called for halting purchases to replenish the strategic oil reserve, rather than tapping into it.

Aides to Mr. Obama said that he now favored releasing light oil from that emergency stockpile, 707 million barrels stored in salt caverns, and replacing it with heavier oil, which they said would be more appropriate for the country’s long-term energy needs. They described that action — meant to help drive down oil prices, which have begun falling in the last month after a long, sharp increase — as a “limited swap” rather than a depletion of the reserve.

Mr. Obama said that through a mixture of investment, discipline and more restrained consumption it would be possible to completely eliminate oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years. Through a combination of similar measures, he said, Americans could at the same time reduce electricity consumption by 15% and create 5 million jobs.

“I will not pretend we can achieve them without cost, or without sacrifice, or without the contribution of almost every American citizen,” Mr. Obama said of his objectives. “But I will say that these goals are possible, and I will say that achieving them is absolutely necessary if we want to keep America safe and prosperous in the 21st century.”

Repeating his call for a windfall profits tax on companies like Exxon-Mobil, which he singled out in his speech on Monday, Mr. Obama said he would use part of the tax to provide consumers with an “emergency energy rebate” of $1,000 per family.

Mr. Obama and his campaign have criticized Mr. McCain for accepting what they call excessive campaign donations from energy interests. Campaign Money Watch, a watchdog organization, said the McCain campaign received a burst of donations in June from oil company employees after he came out in favor of offshore drilling. Together, Hess employees or their relatives contributed more than $300,000 in June to Mr. McCain’s joint fund-raising committee with the Republican National Committee, according to campaign finance records.

Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said officials had examined the donations and found nothing untoward.

Mr. Obama offered details of his energy plan as Democrats have been under continuing pressure to allow offshore drilling. Though Congress is in its August break, a band of Republicans occupied the darkened House floor Monday to criticize the Democratic leadership for refusing to allow a vote on lifting a ban on drilling off much of the nation’s coastline before heading out of town.

About 25 lawmakers, many from the most conservative wing of the Republican Party, railed throughout the day at Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, saying her “San Francisco mentality” was impeding domestic energy production.

Republicans circulated a petition to urge Ms. Pelosi to call the House back into session, and some called for President Bush, who was on his way to China for the Olympics, to demand that Congress return. The White House said Monday that such a step was unlikely.

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