Bill Scher

Clean Energy Battle Royale?

The following was initially posted at The Huffington Post America’s governors have begun to throw down over who can become the most energy independent and bring in the most jobs. Will the presidential candidates be next? Yesterday marked the end of a landmark event, the first Apollo Summit for Clean Energy & Good Jobs. The three-day conference of the Apollo Alliance brought together labor leaders, business executives, environmental advocates and community organizers to build a clean energy future that will create millions of good-paying, high-skill jobs. The highlight of the Summit was when Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick pledged (see the video) to make his state a leader in renewable energy… I don’t just want the wind farms. I want the companies that build the turbines.

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Bill Scher

Energy Blast On Capitol Hill

The Apollo Alliance Summit took its campaign for energy independence and good jobs to Capitol Hill on Tuesday, meeting with members of Congress and their staffs and pressing for increased government support of renewable energy. On the Hill, the Apollo agenda got an embrace from presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton during a lunch-time meeting. It is a “tremendous asset” to bring together “those who care about the environment and those who care about the economy,” Clinton told the group.

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Bill Scher

Bernie and Hillary Cap Off Summit

Senators Hillary Clinton (NY) and Bernie Sanders (VT) thanked Apollo Summiteers for coming to Capitol Hill and pressing their representatives to create good jobs by investing in renewable energy. At a lunchtime event in the Senate, Sen. Sanders said of the labor-environmental partnership at the heart of the Apollo Alliance, “This is a marriage made in heaven. This is a marriage that will move heaven and earth.” And Sen. Clinton noted it’s a “tremendous asset” to bring together “those who care about the environment and those who care about the economy.” Both echoed the theme of the entire summit, as Sen. Sanders proclaimed “to be pro-environment is to be pro-jobs,” while Sen. Clinton talked of job creation efforts in upstate New York involving biofuels, clean coal and green buildings. Sen.

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Bill Scher

Rep. Inslee Rallies The Troops

Apollo Summiteers are off to Capitol Hill today, meeting with congresspeople and their staffs and pressing for increased government support of renewable energy. Before they took to the Hill, Rep. Jay Inslee (WA) addressed the Summit and deemed the Apollo Alliance the “most important coalition” in America today, because “this is a matter of our American destiny … to lead the world in solving this global warming crisis.” Though he cautioned that without strong government policies to quickly create clean energy jobs, those jobs would go to other countries such as China, Germany, England and Denmark. He argued that a cap-and-trade system to limit carbon dioxide emissions was needed to create those jobs.

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Bill Scher

Good Environment = Good Economy

Monday night’s dinner speakers offered a common theme: the future of our economy is tied to the future of our environment. Keynote speaker Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell emphasized that the development of renewable energy is not just “a race for energy independence” but also “a race for economic superiority,” where we will lose our strong economic position in the world if we drag our feet. “It is absolutely criminal that we are moving at a snail’s pace.” (Watch the video.) Gov. Rendell pointed to the Gamesa wind energy project in Pennsylvania as a model. Gamesa representative Michael Peck already addressed the dinner audience, explaining how their “sustainable partnership” with the United Steelworkers is on its way to bring 1,000 good-pay, high-skill union jobs to the Keystone State.

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Bill Scher

Ritter-Patrick Gubernatorial Smackdown!

Oh, it’s on. After Gov. Deval Patrick declared his intention to make Massachusetts the capital of renewable energy, Gov. Bill Ritter threw down the gauntlet on behalf of his Colorado. Patrick, who won election promising support for a groundbreaking wind farm off of Cape Cod, announced yesterday (watch the video): I don’t just want the wind farms. I want the companies that build the turbines. I want the ones that assemble the hybrid vehicles and consult on the conservation strategies. I want the companies that design and manufacture the solar panels. The whole integrated industry ought to and can have a place in Massachusetts … I really believe that if we get this right the whole world will be our customer. Then Ritter (watch the video) upped the ante: Governor Patrick talks about bringing jobs to Massachusetts.

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Bill Scher

Pension Power

Damon Silvers, Associate General Counsel of the AFL-CIO stunned the room this afternoon, announcing that while there’s $160 trillion of fossil fuels currently underground, the economic costs of unchecked climate change will total between $700 and $1,400 trillion — possibly causing a global depression. Silvers said that’s why the AFL-CIO backs investing union pension assets into clean energy funds — because you’re not responsibly investing for the future, if you’re not investing in a sustainable future. Further, Tom Croft of the Heartland Network stressed that it’s important for unions to control their assets and invest in sustainable projects that will create good jobs.

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Bill Scher

Business and Labor: Create Clean Energy Markets

This morning’s “Policies and Partnerships for a Clean Power Future” session found wide agreement from union officials and business leaders on how we should reform our energy policies. Todd Foley of BP Solar and Jim Gordon of Cape Wind both lamented the “start and stop” nature of our government’s involvement in promoting renewable energy. Gordon advocated long-term policies, including tax incentives for production and power-purchasing agreements with utilities, while IBEW Local 103’s Marty Aikens supported residential tax credits . Lee Smith of the National Photovoltaic Construction Partnership pushed for state and local governments to create more demand by purchasing clean energy from domestic manufacturers. Foley concurred that if smart policies create domestic markets, home-grown manufacturing will make good business sense.

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Bill Scher

Green Buildings: Win-Win-Win-Win

By retrofitting our nation’s buildings to make them energy efficient, we can improve the environment, save consumers money, create good-paying union jobs, and reduce poverty. That’s the word from the panelists at today’s “High Performance Buildings & Job Creation” session. Don Gilligan of the National Association of Energy Services Companies told the crowd that a $7 billion annual investment would save consumers $22 billion in energy costs by 2017, while also creating 400,000 jobs annually. Steve Cowell of the non-profit consultant Conservation Services Group explained that the new jobs would not come and go after buildings get retrofitted, but good-paying high-skill permanent jobs would be created to operate and manage energy efficient buildings. And that’s a good fit for unions.

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Bill Scher

Welcome To The Apollo Summit LiveBlog

Today in Washington, labor leaders, environmental activists, business executives, elected officials and community organizers are convening for the Apollo Summit For Clean Energy & Good Jobs. The broad array of participants — brought together by our Apollo Alliance coalition — are finding critical common ground: highlighting state and local projects that have enhanced energy independence while creating jobs with good pay and benefits, and developing strategies that can build on these successes nationwide. I’ll be liveblogging the action for the rest of today and tomorrow, and our friends at PoliticsTV will be posting video highlights and interviews.

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Bill Scher

The Power of the Wage Issue

CQPolitics.com today highlights new research from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, finding that minimum wage initiatives in five states significantly boosted voter turnout: Voter motivation and reported interest in the election was disproportionately high among Democratic base voters, African-Americans, unmarried voters and women — especially where minimum wage initiatives were in play… …[For example,] Democrats in Missouri were twice as likely to vote for Senate challenger Claire McCaskill, who upset Republican incumbent Jim Talent, because of an initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage that won easy approval in November with 76 percent of the vote.

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Bill Scher

Employer-Based Health Care: The Denouement

NPR’s Morning Edition aired a piece earlier this week about a burgeoning trend: corporations giving money to unions and handing off the responsibility of providing health care. With costs skyrocketing, these companies believe paying a lump sum now is better than being crushed by rising costs later. While the trust being put into unions is nice, it feels more like a panic move as our current health care system continues to crumble all around us. As SEIU’s Andy Stern says: It is time to admit that the employer-based health care system is dead, a relic of the industrial economy. America cannot compete in the new global economy when we are the only industrialized nation on earth that puts the price of healthcare on the cost of our products. This development is merely a cry for fundamental, comprehensive reform. Check out our Health Care For All page for more.

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Bill Scher

Rabid Fox Gets Bitten Again

Prolific and incisive filmmaker Robert Greenwald today launched the FoxAttacks website and unveiled an online video exposing Fox News’s efforts to smear Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama as he is being introduced to voters nationwide. For Greenwald, shining a spotlight on such conservative propaganda is the continuation of his earlier important work, the documentary Outfoxed, which helped alert the public to Fox News’ aversion to reporting straight news. This time, Greenwald is not merely trying to document the well-known hypocrisy of Fox’s “fair and balanced” journalism, but he has joined forces with MoveOn.org to try to get the Nevada Democratic Party to disinvite Fox News from sponsorship of a presidential candidate debate in August.

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Bill Scher

W. Post Crusade Against Fair Drug Prices – Part 3

Most of the media saw today’s report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and concluded the headline was that overall health care spending continues to rise. Not the Washington Post. It’s headline? “Medicare Benefit Appears to Slow Spending Growth on Drugs”. And so, the W. Post continues its biased coverage about Medicare’s prescription drug plan, supporting it’s editorial board in opposition to empowering Medicare to negotiate for lower prices. The W. Post dutifully transcribed what the Bush Administration told them: Analysts said they expect to see that spending on prescription drugs rose more slowly in 2006 because of the Medicare Part D drug benefit that began last year. In the program, private insurers negotiate prices with drug companies as they compete to attract Medicare beneficiaries.

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Bill Scher

Who Will Call Europe’s Bluff?

The NY Times reports today that the European Union will cut greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2020, if the US will too. Obviously, the EU knows that President Bush won’t bite, and if you read between the lines of the NYT piece, it would seem the offer is a way to gloss over differences within the EU over how aggressively it can combat global warming. (The EU at least plans to shoot for a 20% cut by then, which ain’t bad at all, as it could put us on the path to cut emissions 60-80% by 2050, widely considered to be the ultimate goal.) But there are a lot of folks looking to replace Bush these days.

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Bill Scher

Grassley Threatens To Kill Wage Raise

Roll Call reports today: Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has warned that he may block a House-Senate conference on the minimum-wage bill unless he is assured his Democratic colleagues will join him in demanding inclusion of a sizable tax-cut package … much larger than the $1.4 billion House-passed proposal. Grassley wants his demands met before any House-Senate conference, or else he’ll filibuster a vote on naming people to the conference. Senate Dems have been trying a strategy of accommodation to avoid a filibuster. But the Roll Call article indicates Republicans are worried what might happen if Democrats call their bluff: Senate Republicans are wary of the political and public relations pitfalls of appearing to block completion of a minimum-wage bill, if they back Grassley in any floor fight.

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Bill Scher

Where The Health Care Debate Is Going

The following was written by Campaign for America’s Future Co-Director Roger Hickey and Online Editor Bill Scher The health care debate has leapt forward in the last few weeks. After the bold health care plan from John Edwards, and the new business-labor coalition Better Health Care Together— spearheaded by Andy Stern (founder of Wal-Mart Watch) and the CEO of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott– there is a growing consensus. America needs, and Americans want, heath care for everyone in America. It is terribly significant that we are forging a broad consensus that everyone should be covered. Now the debate shifts to the question of how to get there. Long-time advocates of universal health care are properly suspicious of plans that get the label right but the details wrong.

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Bill Scher

Another Year, Another Record Trade Deficit

The trade deficit ballooned to $764 billion in 2006, a new record shortfall. The White House shrugged its shoulders. From the W. Post: “Trade is good for America,” [White House spokesman Tony] Fratto said. “There are dislocations for people when you trade. A factory closes, those are real people. But the benefits that accrue to all Americans are clear.” But this severely unfair trade may not benefit all Americans. Also from the W. Post: Some analysts fret that the trade deficit’s continuing climb raises the possibility of a precipitous drop in the dollar. For now, China, Japan and many oil-producing countries are plowing the proceeds of their exports to the United States back into the country by buying U.S. Treasury bills, propping up the dollar and allowing the Fed to keep interest rates low.

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Bill Scher

Minimum Wage Compromise In Sight

The House Ways & Means Committee yesterday cleared a bill with less than $2 billion in business tax breaks, as part of a plan to resolve differences in the House and Senate minimum wage bills. While I noted earlier that the House is passing the tax bill separately from its wage bill — keeping the wage bill “clean” — the plan is to forge a compromise “dirty” bill in a House-Senate conference. How dirty is the House bill? The picture is mixed. On one hand, the size of tax giveaways in the House bill is smaller than the $8.3 billion Senate version. On the other, according to CongressDaily and CQ Today, the business lobby is happier with the House version in part because it leaves out a Senate provision closing a tax loophole for executives earning over $1 million a year.

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Bill Scher

Bush’s Medicare Drug Program. It Ain’t Working.

Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, it’s working — Current TV ad from Big Pharma [Rep. Henry] Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, laid out his health oversight priorities for the year at a Feb. 9 hearing, drawing a bull’s-eye on Medicare’s Part D drug benefit and the drugmakers and distributors in the program. … Citing a lack of transparency by drugmakers, pharmacies and insurers, Waxman said the current system “calls out for more fraud, and a harder job for those who are trying to protect the taxpayers.” … Witnesses at the Feb. 9 hearing said the government has failed to carefully monitor the cost of its drug programs, Part D in particular. “Many government programs do not know the prices they pay for drugs,” said Gerard Anderson, professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University.

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