Obama Slams Koch Brothers at Clean Energy Summit for 'Standing in the Way of Progress'
President Obama has returned from vacation and he said he feels "refreshed, renewed, recharged" and "a little feisty." Well, that feistiness was apparent as he delivered the closing address at the 8th National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, Nevada Monday. Sun-blessed Nevada is being hailed as "ground zero in the solar boom." He slammed critics of his energy policies for “wanting to protect an outdated status quo” based on fossil fuels and warned them away from “standing in the way of the future” and his efforts to combat climate change.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) August 25, 2015
He railed against U.S. political and business figures, particularly the Koch brothers, for attempting to thwart the expansion of wind and solar power, which is widely popular among the American public.
"When you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards, or to prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding, that's a problem," Obama said, marking the first time the President has singled out the Koch brothers in a climate speech. The explosive growth of solar in the U.S. "has some big fossil fuel interests pretty nervous," Obama noted.
And he pointed out the inconsistency of those who promote free market solutions, except when those solutions point to renewable energy. "Now, it's one thing if you're consistent in being free market," said Obama. "It's another thing when you're free market until it's solar that's working and people want to buy and suddenly you're not for it any more."
Koch-backed groups, particularly the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have fought renewable energy programs in several states, including pushing for states to withdraw from climate compacts, penalizing rooftop solar installations and repealing renewable portfolio standards.
"That's not the American way. That's not progress. That's not innovation. That's rent seeking. That's standing in the way of progress," Obama said. The President's speech, however, was not all doom and gloom and bashing his critics. Obama spoke optimistically about American ingenuity and with great hope about solar and other renewable forms of energy. “We’re here today because we believe that no challenge poses a greater threat to our future than climate change,” Mr. Obama said. “But we’re also here because we hold another belief, and that is, we are deeply optimistic about American ingenuity.”
Obama said the growth in solar—which is 20 times bigger than it was in 2008, is "like evolving from the telegraph to the smartphone in less than a decade." And he noted that "solar isn't just for the green crowd any more, it's for the green-eyeshade crowd too," citing the fact that Walmart, Google and Apple are among the largest buyers of renewable energy in the world.
The speech came "as his administration announced a series of measures to encourage solar power construction, including making an additional $1 billion in loan guarantee authority available in a federal program for innovative versions of residential rooftop solar systems," reports The New York Times.
“We’re going to make it even easier for individual homeowners to put solar panels on the roof with no upfront cost,” Obama said. “So we’re taking steps that will allow more Americans to join this revolution, with no money down.”
And this is all on the heels of the President's Clean Power Plan, which requires states to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Much of those cuts would come from bringing more renewable energy projects online.
Environmental groups praised the President's latest efforts. “President Obama’s announcement today is a huge win for American families from coast-to-coast," said Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce. "These policies will save homeowners money on their electricity bills, put more people to work and empower Americans to act to tackle climate disruption in their everyday lives."
— Sierra Club Live (@SierraClubLive) August 25, 2015
President Obama's speech was the first leg of a climate tour that will culminate in a three-day trip to Alaska next week. On Thursday, President Obama will fly to New Orleans to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and speak about how cities can become more resilient in the face of climate change.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.