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Senator Specter Kicks Off Nationwide Town Hall on Clean Energy Future

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Guest post by Alex Tinker

Congressman Cao Event Streams Live Today from New Orleans at www.FocusTheNation.org (6PM EST); Elected officials address citizens, Focus the Nation in video statements here

Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) joined students from Drexel University, community members and business leaders for a discussion on tackling climate change and seizing the opportunities of the new energy economy this Monday in Philadelphia.

The event kicked off a series of 103 town hall-style forums, part of a nationwide Town Hall on the clean energy future sponsored by Focus the Nation, a clean energy youth empowerment group based in Portland, OR.

The Philadelphia town hall even featured presentations from Audrey Zibelman, CEO of Viridity Energy, a cutting edge carbon and energy management firm, representatives of the Philadelphia department of sustainability, Senator Specter and others. Afterwards, a select group of participants, students and community members from the Philadelphia area, had a closed-door meeting with one of Specter's advisers on energy and environment issues, James Decker, to continue a conversation about clean energy solutions.

Senator Specter may be the most crucial swing vote in the Senate as Congressional leaders gear up for a national debate on climate and clean energy legislation this year. As Newsweek recently noted:

"His colleagues may wince, but for reasons of math Specter now finds himself the most sought-after, and sucked-up-to, member of the Senate. He could wind up casting the deciding vote on major issues, including health-care and energy reform. Here's why: Senate rules say the Democrats need 60 votes to keep Republicans from filibustering. Even if Al Franken is (finally) seated, they're one maddening vote shy. They'll need a Republican defector, not an easy thing to get. On big votes, leaders bully members into standing with the party, and senators, fearing retaliation, usually comply."

"Sen. Specter's participation in the launch of this national discussion epitomizes the opportunity America has to redefine the kind of leadership it will take to keep our country at the forefront of building the clean energy future," said Garett Brennan, executive director of Focus the Nation. "This is our window to shift our economy from crisis to opportunity. Legislators need to hear that serious investment in green jobs and affordable clean energy isn't bold to their constituents at all. It's common sense. It's what they want and it's what our economy needs."

More than 100 similar events are occurring nationwide this week, including a town hall with Congressman Joseph Cao of Louisiana that will be streamed live from New Orleans at focusthenation.org today at 6:00pm ET.

The nationwide Focus the Nation Town Halls are largely being organized by hundreds of youth who are driving today's clean energy movement. The success of the events is a result of multi-sector and multi-generational partnerships that they are building in their communities.

"It's usually our leaders who call town halls on pressing issues," said Lindsey Berger, an organizer at Missouri State University. "This time we're inviting them to our town halls because our generation knows we don't have time to wait to build a clean energy future."

On the national level, many discussions will center on the new draft climate and energy bill released by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) that is the first to set science-based targets to cut global warming pollution. On the international level, the Focus the Nation Town Halls will set the stage American leadership at the December 2009 climate treaty negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the local level, the Town Hall discussions will cover a range of topics representing sectors like agriculture, energy, building, transportation and urban planning and will help each community identify where it sits on the trajectory toward a clean and prosperous energy future.

The Town Halls are also catalysts for further action. Organizers and participants will begin charting community action plans unique to each locality that will be implemented with Focus the Nation's support over the coming year. Those plans will focus on overcoming roadblocks, sharing solutions from other regions of the country and identifying opportunities to accelerate momentum along the clean energy trajectory.

The events are part of a growing clean energy movement that includes Focus the Nation and partner groups such as 1Sky, Energy Action Coalition, Green For All and 350.org. Together, these motivated leaders are mobilizing youth, business leaders, elected officials and other sectors to create climate and energy solutions within a necessarily rapid time frame.

International climate experts say that the next few years is the window for averting irretrievable climate disruption. "If there's no action before 2012, that's too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment," Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the international panel of the world's top climate scientists, famously warned. That was in 2007.

Attend a Town Hall near you and help Focus the Nation: www.FocusTheNation.org

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