The world's best scientists are telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we'll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe.
It's getting harder to defend our economic and environmental interests against the corrupting influence of campaign cash. The struggle for a fairer economy is inseparable from the struggle to protect the planet -- and both will be more successful once we've removed big money from our political process.
In votes Wednesday on amendments to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline bill, some Republican Senators finally went on record acknowledging that man-made climate change is real. But it is clear that the Republican leadership and most members of their caucus still have no plans to do something about it.
Republican leaders have chosen recently elected Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to deliver the party's response to President Obama's State of the Union address. Ernst is a veteran who grew up on an Iowa farm. She is also a pistol-packing, anti-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), anti-Clean Water Act politician.
Polluters are fighting hard to get Keystone approved. The oil and gas industry pumped $53.1 million into last year's congressional campaigns--87 percent of which went to Republican candidates. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell raked in $608,000 from the industry for his 2014 campaign, and now he is putting Keystone XL at the heart of his big polluter agenda. But this isn't just a battle over industry influence. This is a choice about the kind of nation we want to live in. Do we want to live in a country where expert reviews don't matter and industry profits trump our families' health? Do we want to lock ourselves into a fuel that generates 17 percent more climate change pollution than crude oil and makes our children more vulnerable to extreme weather? Or do we want something better?
Remember "Peak Oil?" The world was running out of oil, prices would soon skyrocket, and we had better find other fuels. Well, that argument didn't work out so well for environmentalists, did it? As oil reserves and those of other carbon fuels became scarce and prices rose, the law of supply and demand kicked in. The industry invested the profits from those higher prices in new technologies, and the oil barons found even more destructive ways to extract oil and gas -- by exploiting the muck from tar sands, inventing hydro-fracking, and despoiling Third World sources. So now, oil is cheaper than it's been in years, about $66 a barrel. Regular unleaded gasoline can be had for well under $3 a gallon. One of the few things sustaining U.S. consumer purchasing power in the face of dismal wages is close to $100 billion saved in energy costs. OPEC's pricing power has been broken and the United States is about to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer.