11/12/2010 05:17 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Clean Energy Defeats Climate Denial in Colorado

As I've said before, we lost many friends on Election Day -- friends who stood up to the Big Oil companies and championed clean energy policies. And while corporate polluters and their lobbyists may claim this was a referendum on clean energy reform that was clearly not the case. Our election eve poll showed that voters who supported the Republican candidate in 83 battleground districts did not do so because of the Democrat's vote for clean energy and climate legislation. In fact, in an open ended question, only 1 percent of voters who supported the Republican candidate cited cap and trade as their reason for opposing the Democratic candidate.

However, there are several priority races in which candidates who campaigned on clean energy and climate policies won. Senator Barbara Boxer, one of the country's leading clean energy champions, defeated climate denier Carly Fiorina. Senator Harry Reid defeated Sharron Angle, another climate change denier, and did so in part by aggressively touting the potential of Nevada's clean energy economy. Christine O'Donnell in Delaware vowed to block clean energy and climate reform and was crushed by incoming Senator Chris Coons. Also in California, where the words "global warming" was literally on the ballot, voters overwhelmingly voted for a clean energy economy by rejecting Proposition 23.

And in Colorado, one of the closest Senate races in the country, the issue of global warming may have just helped to tip the scales in favor of Senator Michael Bennet.

Earlier in the year, Ken Buck proudly declared himself a "skeptic" when it comes to climate change -- telling a Colorado news program:

"I don't think that man-made causes are the primary factor for global warming and I am one of those people that Al Gore refers to as a skeptic."

Turns out he was more of a denier than a skeptic. Throughout the campaign, Buck regularly expressed his staunch opposition to comprehensive energy and climate legislation, despite the fact that Colorado's clean energy industries have been one of the state's few economic bright spots.

Less than two weeks before Election Day, Buck took his climate denialism to the extreme, campaigning in Colorado with the Senate's most notorious global warming denier: Senator James Inhofe. Buck said:

"Senator Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people's view, of what's going on."

The Bennet campaign immediately jumped on Buck's comments. As reported by the Hill:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is slamming Republican opponent Ken Buck for his comments in a news account in which he said global warming is a hoax.

Bennet -- locked in a tight race with the Tea Party favorite -- said through an aide Thursday that Buck's view is at odds with the economic benefits that low-carbon energy brings Colorado.

"Ken Buck's extreme stance on climate change is a threat to Colorado's economy and could prove cataclysmic for our national security," said Bennet spokesman Trevor Kincaid in a statement. Kincaid noted the Pentagon's view that climate change is a security issue.

"Michael Bennet believes that climate change is real, and that we need to grow our economy by embracing clean energy alternatives, like solar, wind, and other renewable sources of energy," Bennet's campaign said. "Michael believes that Colorado is uniquely positioned to lead the world in the new energy economy."

Additionally, climate scientists in Colorado slammed Buck for failing to understand the sound and settled science that man-made carbon pollution is contributing to climate change. Scott Denning, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University said,

"It's certainly not a hoax. This is a very well understood scientific phenomenon. It's really been understood that CO2 (carbon dioxide) will warm the planet since 1863."

Sensing that he was likely to pay a political price for embracing Inhofe's legendry climate denialism, Buck attempted to walk back his comments -- suggesting that while he believed the planet was warming, it was still unclear to what extent it was caused by humans. But by then the damage was done.

It was clear that Ken Buck was the wrong choice for Colorado, which is why LCV campaigned aggressively against him and named him to our "Dirty Dozen" list. In fact, we invested more resources into the Colorado Senate race -- almost $900,000 -- than any other congressional race in the country, with TV ads, web videos, mail pieces and nearly 500,000 phone calls. And whereas Buck's extreme views on energy policy would have taken Colorado backwards, Senator Bennet championed clean energy policies that would create new clean energy jobs, reduce our dangerous dependence on oil and curb harmful carbon pollution.

LCV congratulates Senator Bennet on his election to the U.S. Senate. Senator Bennet is working to ensure that America -- and more importantly Colorado -- leads in the creation of the 21st century's new clean energy economy and LCV is thrilled that he will be able to continue this good work in the 112th Congress.