On the pavement for climate action

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P.S. Did South Texas climate activists find their very own Joe the Plumber?

Not this one. Read deeper.

Greg Harman

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Roughly 20 protestors held the sidewalk outside the U.S. Federal Building in San Antonio on Tuesday to urge Congressman Charlie Gonzalez to commit to tough climate legislation and not cow to utility lobbyists pursing free pollution credits.

Meanwhile, inside a local volunteer organizer from the advocacy group MoveOn.org, business owner and organizer for Texas Climate Emergency, and a local plumber were wrapping up a meeting with an aide to the Congressman.

Protestors held signs in support of the Waxman-Markey climate bill â?? a draft of which has been debated and discussed for the past couple weeks in D.C. â?? and called out CPS Energy, the San Antonio-owned utility that has been spending tens of thousands of dollars lobbying against cap-and-trade legislation.

San Antonio resident Jim Donovan said the only ones who will benefit from delaying action on the climate may be those growing “fruit trees in Alberta,” but that Texas stands to lose a lot from inaction. Projections hold that the longer industrial greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, the higher annual temperatures will rise. Already a state of “permanent” drought is predicted for the American Southwest by a ream of international climate models.

“If we don't get on board here, then India and China will be asking, â??Why should we get on board?' Donovan said, alluding to an international gathering in Copenhagen planned for December when the world must ratify a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol.

MoveOn volunteer Angie Drake returned to inform the group that Gonzalez's aide had said her boss would not be making any statements about the proposed legislation until after the draft became a bill. That he wouldn't so much as discuss where he stands on the issues.

The consensus to that message?

“I think he needs a continued barrage of information from his constituents,” said one.

Drake and I pulled aside to speak about her personal efforts on this issue. She spoke candidly about her military husband in Afghanistan, their energy-aware children at home, and her hopes for coming global warming legislation.

Listen in:

Jobs were also on the minds of several in attendance.

“The way this is written, it's going to create so many jobs it's unbelievable,” said retired Army Chaplain James Berbiglia of the draft legislation.

San Antonio resident Lupe Cantu (above, right) put her finger in the sky. “They keep destroying the land. They keep destroying the mountains. All for energy,” she said. “There's the energy right there â?¦ We need to do something with that, because God put it there to wake us up.”

Local plumber Michael Moczygemba (left) sat in on the inside meeting. He said he is interested in installing solar hot water heaters in San Antonio, but the market needs federal incentives to get it moving. “Ultimately, it's the responsible thing to do,” he said.

Gonzalez may or may not be getting the undiluted message from rallies like this one, but more than a few motorists did and honked enthusiastically.

If you are hung up on the whole global depression thing, consider: What better time to roll out the new economy â?? one with dividends!

Here are some closing thoughts from my new friends at Fresh Energy:

The good news is that this simple and popular planâ??a supply-side cap on emissions with all permits auctioned and 100 percent of the funds returned evenly to Americansâ??is gaining new allies among economists, advocates, and policy makers.

THE RIGHT SOLUTION Cap and dividendâ??or more accurately, cap and cash back is the one way Obama can lay the foundation for the clean energy transition yet this year. Cap and cash back sweeps away the five most common attacks on other cap-and-trade policies.

* By eliminating giveaways of permits to polluting industries, cap and cash back discredits the charge that limiting and lowering carbon emissions is the newest corporate welfare.

* By refunding all permit fees to taxpayers, cap and cash back disproves the charge that limiting and lowering carbon emissions is a hidden new energy tax on Americans.

* By assuring that investment priorities are funded through the normal appropriations process instead of with permit revenues, cap and cash back mitigates concerns that permanent new spending will be funded by energy surcharges.

* By assuring equal monthly rebates to all Americansâ??every person with a social security numberâ??cap and cash back refutes the attack that limiting and lowering carbon emissions hurts middle class families' purchasing power.

* By eliminating offset or schemes to give credits for questionable reductions outside the cap, cap and cash back prevents gambling strategies for Wall Street or carbon market players.

Yes, 2009 is the year to begin cutting our dangerous dependence on oil and coal and laying the foundations for a new prosperity for all. Cap and cash back is the way forward.

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