Charlie shamed and scolded from the pulpit for climate meddling

Power to the strong-lunged. Outside the Federal Building today.

Greg Harman

[email protected]

Heartening to see that at least some San Antonians got up this morning, scrambled their yard eggs, and marched right down to the Federal Building to decry the nefarious work of one Congressman Charlie Gonzalez.

Reps from played a facilitating role, leading a small group of local residents in to present a Gonzalez aide a green construction helmet representing the economic potential of the climate bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

After dithering about green jobs for a bit, MoveOn man and Cibolo resident J.C. Dufresne admitted that today's protest was intended to exert some pressure on Gonzalez, who is one of a handful of conservative Dems that got the bill so diluted that it can no longer protect the country from the worst global warming projections.

“We're trying to push back and say, â??Hey, that wasn't such a good position to take,” Dufresne said.

Meanwhile, about 20 protestors gathered outside the prominent Durango building to chant to passing motorists, “Mean, green, and clean!” They held pages reading, “Clean Energy Jobs Now!”

Most significantly, this group was nearly all locals, as opposed to several recent protests aimed at Gonzalez that owed much to veteran chanters out of Austin.

Gonzalez wears the bull's eye due to his membership status on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, where the climate bill was born. Instead of getting behind the legislation early on and pushing for improvements, Gonzalez has angled for two things: more support for nuclear power and free pollution credits for utilities.

He told the Express-News last week that he was hoping to keep rates down for San Antonio and was motivated by his daily contact with City-owned CPS Energy. CPS Energy, in the meantime, has spent more than $90,000 lobbying against cap-and-trade legislation.

A few days after Gonzalez succeeding in getting the free pollution credits CPS wanted, some of today's protesters were taking stronger tones toward Charlie and CPS than their MoveOn organizer. (Gonzalez's office did not return a call for comment.)

“I was shocked that he could go so far away from his constituents and just listen to CPS,” said SA resident Rebecca Flores, “because he pretty much gave away all the candy in the candy store.”

Betty Moore with Community in Action for Change in Northeast SA said she wanted to send a message to CPS that “we're not playing monopoly any more.” Moore later said she hopes to inspired San Antonio residents to push to open the city to competition from other utilities.

Madeleine Dewar objected to the emphasis on nuclear power CPS and Gonzalez are supporting. “It is not really creating jobs â?¦ significant lifetime jobs.”

However, Dewar pointed out today, “Europe did that and it's a failed experiment.” Generally, the European Union's cap-and-trade system didn't start reducing greenhouse gas emissions until the credits started to be auctioned off.

Protesters also suggested that with his relatively “safe” Congressional seat, Gonzalez should be working to cement a legacy on climate justice.

“If this is Charlie's legacy then I'm going to wrap it around his neck,” Flores said.

“He's going to destroy his legacy,” warned Moore. “CPS and them are not going to give him that legacy.”

Widely hailed by the broader environmental community when the discussion draft was quietly released weeks ago, Greenpeace USA has already withdrawn support for the American Clean Energy and Security Act.

The curse of whalers everywhere writes:

To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, science tells us that the United States and other developed nations must collectively achieve emissions cuts of at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050. But ACES, as it currently stands, only sets a domestic target of approximately 4 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Even with additional measures elsewhere in the legislation, the U.S. effort would still fall far short of the emissions cuts that climate scientists say are necessary.

Rapid emissions reductions in the short-term are critical to avoiding the worst effects of global warming because rising temperatures have already triggered a series of negative feedback loops — such as Arctic melting in the North and raging wildfires in the South — that are accelerating the crisis. With the weak start outlined in this bill, achieving the needed emissions reductions would be impossible.

While Gonzalez apparently didn't get the nuke subsidies he was searching for, that standard has been taken up with gusto on the Senate side by Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Hutchison hopes to increase the pot of money available for new nuke plants through the U.S. Department of Energy.

From her website we read:

“As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, we ask that you ensure that the DoE Loan Guarantee Program has the necessary funds to further develop nuclear power for the country with these 17 applications.

“We look forward to working with you on this important issue and thank you for your consideration.”

Also signing the letter with Sen. Hutchison were Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Lugar (R-IN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Mel Martinez (R-FL), James Risch (R-ID), David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Christopher Bond (R-MO). Please see attached PDF of the letter with signatures.

`We urge all good Texans to immediately throw their support for the Hutch in her quest for the Republican Party's nomination for the long-vacant seat of Texas Governor. The faster she's taken out of Washington the better.`

Meanwhile, folks from Oxfam and Texas Climate Emergency will be meeting back at the Federal steps this week to symbolically present Gonzalez the following letter from a slice of the faith-based community.

I'm told signers include the Reverend Ann Helmke (Lutheran), the Rev. Phineas Washer (Presbyterian), the Rev. Lt Col. Jim Berbiglia (Presbyterian), the Rev. Rachel Epp Miller (Mennonite), The Rev. Phil Shulman (Unitarian-Universalist), the Rev. Albert Clayton (United Methodist), Hazzan David Silverstein (Congregation Israel, a Jewish progressive congregation), and faith community leaders Lucy Greer Burton (S.O.L. Center), Judy Lackritz (Jewish Federation Environmental Chair), Hal Hammond, Environmental stewardship of West Texas Episcopal Diocese.

As the Current's unofficial faith leader â?? I don't see many others grasping for the title â?? I suppose I could add our name below.

Dear Congressman Gonzalez,

As members of the faith community in the San Antonio area, we represent a cross-section of churches, synagogues, mosques, and faith-based organizations. We come together today to ask that you take action on this, the most critical moral imperative of our time, in the form of legislation currently before you in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. For the sake of future generations, and for the integrity of God's most prolific creation, the Earth, we ask that you support a strong, effective, and fair plan to address climate change that meets the principles which are outlined below.

We bring a distinct perspective to the debate about climate change by lifting up the moral dimensions of this issue and the needs of the most vulnerable among us. People living in poverty — at home and abroad — contribute least to climate change, but they are likely to suffer its worst consequences with few resources to adapt and respond. The impacts of climate change — including increased temperatures, rising sea levels, increased and new threats to public health, and changes in rainfall that contribute to more frequent and severe floods and drought — make the lives of the worlds' poorest even more precarious.

The undersigned denominations and individual congregations, pastors, and lay persons ask that you place the needs of poor and vulnerable people at the center of climate change legislation. We encourage you to also support this priority by encouraging legislation that will achieve the following objectives:

* Auction pollution allowances and devote a major portion of the proceeds to addressing impacts on consumers — particularly low- and moderate-income Americans — workers, vulnerable communities, and natural resources while helping the nation use energy more efficiency, shifting to renewable energy, increasing public transit;

* Invest a portion of auction proceeds, at least 7%, in international adaptation so world security may be enhanced through creating greater resiliency, social stability, and enhanced livelihoods in nations that have few emissions but are suffering first and worst from the effects of global climate change.

Of course, we are also well aware that much needs to be done to mitigate climate change now to reduce longer term impacts. We must consider the future of children and future generations. The science makes clear that this nation must act now to stave off the worst effects of global warming. Urgent action is needed that both begins to reduce the growing threat of climate change and acts to protect the poor and vulnerable.

We endorse mandates that encourage prudent development of renewable energy which also mitigates global warming. We ask that you support legislation that meets the following objectives:

* Establish current science-based pollution targets to substantially reduce total U.S. global warming emissions and require targets to be periodically updated as the science evolves;

* Strictly limit and ensure strong rules for carbon “offsets” so that our efforts to reduce pollution are effective;

* Require utilities to obtain and ever increasing amount of their electricity from renewable sources and to reduce their energy use; and

* Develop and implement energy efficiency and conservation standards in new buildings.

Thank you for your work and those of your colleagues in the rapid and prudent development of legislation that meets these principles for the common good of the people of this earth.

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