By Senator Bernie Sanders
The Big Energy industries (oil, coal and gas) along with their political allies like Mitt Romney are waging war against sustainable energy and the need to transform our energy system and reverse global warming. In many instances they are aided and abetted by the very powerful nuclear power industry.
One of their main lines of attack (used repeatedly by Romney in his first debate with President Obama) is that the federal government is picking energy “winners and losers.” In fact, Romney has said he will not invest in “chasing fads and picking winners and losers” among energy technologies and he will allow the free market to determine energy development.
Romney is right about one thing. The government does pick winners and losers in the energy sector. What Romney has not told the American people, however, is that the big winners of federal support are the already immensely profitable fossil fuel and nuclear industries, not sustainable energy.
As a member of both the Senate Energy and Environment committees, I am working to stop the handouts to the fossil fuel industry. I have introduced legislation called the End Polluter Welfare Act. Rep. Keith Ellison filed the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Our measure calls for the elimination for all subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries. Using the best available estimates from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation and other budget experts, we found more than $113 billion in federal subsidies will go to fossil fuel corporations over the next 10 years alone. These subsidies benefit some of the wealthiest corporations on the planet, including the five largest oil corporations, which made a combined profit of $1 trillion over the last decade. Unlike sustainable energy incentives, many of these fossil fuel subsidies are written permanently into the tax code by industry lobbyists, which means they never expire.
Let me give you just a few examples of outrageously strong federal support for Big Energy companies:
- BP, after committing one of the worst environmental disasters in the modern history of America, was able to take a large tax deduction on the money it spent cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Coal companies are able to sign single-bid sweetheart leases to mine on federal lands without paying fair value in royalties to the taxpayers of this country.
- In 2009, Exxon-Mobil, one of the most profitable corporations in this country, paid no federal income taxes, and in fact received a rebate from the IRS. Many other large and very profitable oil companies also have managed to avoid paying federal income taxes in certain years.
But it is not just fossil fuel companies. The nuclear industry also benefits from massive corporate welfare. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that the nuclear industry has received over $95 billion (in 2011 dollars) in federal research and development support in the last 65 years. Nuclear corporations currently have access to billions in federal loan guarantees to build new plants and enrich uranium. They also have federal tax incentives for mining uranium, producing nuclear electricity and even decommissioning a plant.
Perhaps most significantly, the nuclear industry would collapse tomorrow without a huge nuclear insurance program from the federal government. The Price-Anderson Act could, in the event of an American nuclear disaster, force taxpayers to pay out tens or even hundreds of billions in damage claims. Nuclear power is so risky that none of Mitt Romney’s Wall Street or free market friends will provide that type of insurance.
Let’s be clear. The war against sustainable energy by the Big Energy companies has been extremely successful. During the last year, with almost unanimous Republican opposition, Congress has not been able to extend a very successful program, the 1603 grant, which had supported over 20,000 sustainable energy projects and tens of thousands of jobs. Congress also has been unable to extend the Production Tax Credit which primarily supports wind energy. The result has been significant layoffs and cancelled projects in the wind industry.
What has not been often enough pointed out is that despite all the opposition, all of the lies coming from fossil fuel sponsored think tanks and the right-wing media, this country has made significant and important progress in moving toward energy efficiency and sustainable energy.
That progress is critical in the fight to reverse global warming, which the vast majority of scientists who study the issue consider to be one of the greatest threats to our planet. With strong federal intervention, we have made some good progress in recent years, but clearly much more needs to be done. Let me just mention a few energy success stories.
As a result of the stimulus package, and legislation that Senator Menendez and I introduced called the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, billions of dollars have gone to every state in the country for local projects. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that over 70 percent of their member cities have installed new energy efficient LED lighting with block grant funds. Many cities have also invested in public building retrofits that save taxpayers money.
The stimulus also invested in weatherization, which we know is the low-hanging fruit in terms of saving energy. We know this from experience in Vermont where, on average, families whose homes are weatherized save $916 a year on their fuel bills, while cutting carbon emissions. We have now weatherized over 1 million homes nationwide thanks to the stimulus weatherization investment. Significantly, these projects are also creating many new jobs for construction workers installing insulation and manufacturing workers producing energy efficient products and materials.
But it is not just weatherization and energy efficiency technologies. We also have made great progress with solar. Prior to the stimulus, at the end of 2008, we had about 1,500 megawatts of solar and less than 50,000 solar jobs in America. The cost of solar was $7.50 per watt installed. Today, less than four years later, we have more than tripled solar energy to 5,700 megawatts installed. We have more than doubled jobs, with more than 100,000 solar energy jobs at 5,600 companies in the United States. And we have cut the cost of solar by more than half, down to $3.45 per watt installed.
Further, there are exciting new breakthroughs in solar technology. For example, a 30 megawatt solar project in Alamosa, Colo., developed by a company called Cogentrix, uses advanced concentrated solar panels that produce double the power of a conventional panel. The Alamosa solar project created jobs for dozens of construction workers and is providing power for 6,500 homes in Colorado.
In California, the Ivanpah concentrated solar thermal plant has created 2,100 construction jobs. Ivanpah is scheduled for completion in 2013. This huge 400 megawatt solar plant, a little less than half the size of an average nuclear plant, will provide power for 140,000 homes.
In Yuma County, Arizona, First Solar has installed a 250 megawatt solar project that is now the world’s largest operating solar photovoltaic plant in the world. Using advanced thin-film panels, which can cut costs, the project created hundreds of construction jobs and will power about 100,000 homes.
Each of these projects in Colorado, California and Arizona received financing support from the stimulus. Other similar projects are under construction and in development. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has estimated that just with solar projects like these in the Southwest on federal public lands, we could generate enough electricity to meet 29 percent of the nation’s residential electricity needs.
The story is much the same with wind energy. At the end of 2008 we had about 25,000 megawatts of wind energy, and now we have more than 50,000 megawatts, equivalent in capacity to roughly 50 nuclear plants. 75,000 Americans work in wind energy. We have over 470 wind manufacturing plants. And the cost of wind energy dropped from 8.4 cents per kilowatt hour in 2008 to about 5 to 7 cents per kilowatt hour today.
Far from being a “fad” as defined by Mr. Romney, wind has added more capacity in the last five years than nuclear and coal combined, and has provided 20 percent of the electricity in states like Iowa and South Dakota. The stimulus has supported one of the largest wind farms in the world, operating now in Oregon. The Shepherds Flat wind farm employed over 400 construction workers and has 845 megawatts of wind energy installed, enough to power 235,000 homes.
As a nation we must continue this progress. It is not about whether government is picking winners and losers, because clearly government has been doing just that for years, with the fossil fuel and nuclear industries being the big winners. What is necessary to reverse global warming and create jobs is that we pick the right winners—the technologies that will transform our energy system and protect the environment.
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
Bernie Sanders is a Junior Senator from Vermont. He sits on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
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By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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