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  January 17, 2018

Congressional Candidates Pledge to Move Off Fossil Fuels

More than 100 House and Senate candidates around the country are pledging to support the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act if they are elected, says Mark Schlosberg of Food & Water Action
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Mark Schlosberg is Organizing co-director for Food & Water Watch and Food & Water Action. Food & Water Watch was the first national environmental organization to call for a ban on fracking and works with community groups across the country for clean water, safe food, and a livable climate.


GREGORY WILPERT: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Gregory Wilpert coming to you from Quito, Ecuador. The United States experienced one of the worst years of climate and weather disasters in 2017. With damages exceeding 306 billion dollars according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Still, in January the US has all ready broken many temperature records and experienced extreme and dangerous weather. All of this has been linked to human caused climate change.

While president Trump, a climate change denier runs the country, can anything be done to combat the catastrophic climate change on a federal level? Many are now looking to the 2018 congressional elections coming up in November. And it appears more than 100 US house and senate candidates around the country are campaigning on a platform to combat climate change and pledging support of the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act if they're elected. With us to discuss this, we are joined from Oakland, California by Mark Schlosberg, the National Organizing Director of Food and Water Watch. Welcome to The Real News Network, Mark.

MARK SCHLOSBERG: Hey, thanks for having me.

GREGORY WILPERT: So, first of all Mark, tell us about the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or OFF Act. What would it mean if it was passed?

MARK SCHLOSBERG: Well, the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act, or the OFF Act was introduced by representative Tulsi Gabbard last fall. It's the strongest, most aggressive piece of climate legislation that's been introduced in Congress and it sets a requirement of 100% renewable energy, clean renewable energy by 2035. And importantly, recognizing the next 10 years being absolutely critical, sets an interim 80% benchmark by 2027. It also places a moratorium on new federal fossil fuel projects. It eliminates subsidies for the oil and gas industry. It creates a fund for a just transition. It eliminates exports of oil and gas and also says that our transportation system needs to move to 100% renewable energy. So, it's really very aggressive, very ambitious, but also what’s absolutely required by the science that is increasingly showing the urgency of us acting on climate change now.

We don't have time to wait until 2050, 2080 or beyond. We need to act now in the next 10 years. The science tells us is really quite critical.

GREGORY WILPERT: So, there are more than 100 congressional candidates who have pledged to support the bill, and if elected they're predominantly in blue states, or democratic based states. Is there also support among republicans for this bill?

MARK SCHLOSBERG: Well, the bill right now has 23 cosponsors in the house in addition to Congresswoman Gabbard all of whom are Democrats. We have seen as you mentioned, over 100 congressional candidates from 27 states across the country pledging to support this bill if they're elected. And we're also seeing, really a groundswell of support for both this legislation and the concept of moving very quickly and aggressively to 100% renewable energy. So, we're gonna see this be an issue in the elections as they move forward, but it's also an issue that's moving forward at the state level and at the local level. So, there's several bills that are introduced in various states across the country, that are going to be introduced in various states across the country, and there's many cities across the country that have passed measures saying that we need to be at 100% renewable by 2035 at the latest. Really, we need to start acting now, the next 10 years being critical.

GREGORY WILPERT: So, as supporting renewable energy instead of fossil fuel has become such a partisan issue, are there any Republican politicians such as governors for example who are actually supporting renewable energy because it also creates more jobs than the fossil fuel industry?

MARK SCHLOSBERG: Well, it's interesting you mention about it being a partisan issue because we know from polling that people across all political lines would like to see action taken to stop the effects of climate change, even though majority of or large percentage of Republicans don't believe in climate change. The science is very clear. We need to have strong action now. In terms of Republican elected officials, we've seen some taking on things such as a carbon tax, but we know that measures like that are not sufficient to address this problem. They're not effective as born out by evidence of where we've seen that type of thing enacted. And we need elected officials who are both Democrats and Republicans to push for strong regulatory approaches that are actually going to address the problem.

This debate between a regulatory approach to move as quickly to 100% renewable energy and market mechanisms that tinker with the market to try and create incentives to go away from fossil fuels is very significant, something that's really happening right now. And when we decided we wanted to clean up our water and pass the Clean Water Act, we didn't say, “How can we create a tax system so that people will not pollute our water? “We just regulated and said, “You can't do that pollution.” We need to do the same thing with our move to renewable energy and it needs to be done in a very aggressive timeline because the science really shows that we just don't have time to wait.

GREGORY WILPERT: You mentioned earlier also, that there are several states that are introducing bills on a state level in the coming weeks. Can you tell us a little bit more about these state laws?

MARK SCHLOSBERG: Yeah. So, we're seeing real groundswell of support for really bold action on climate, particularly 100% renewable energy by 2030, in some cases by 2035. No later than 2035. New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Colorado and elsewhere are really looking towards moving these really strong and bold measures. So, we're really excited to be working on those measures. There's lots of other activity happening at the local level. The Council of Mayors recommended last year, moving by 2035 and it's got to also be done right. It needs to be done in a way that's clean, that doesn't include unclean sources as renewable energy.

It's got to really be wind, solar, some geothermal, and existing hydro and ways to get us to 100% renewable. And we know we can do it. This is not a matter of whether something is technologically feasible. We know it is. It's really a measure of political will. And we've got to have the will to do it.

GREGORY WILPERT So, beyond the obvious benefit of getting off of polluting fossil fuels that we also know are driving climate change and are leading to more intense national disasters. Are there any other economic benefits of shifting to more renewables for the United States?

MARK SCHLOSBERG: Absolutely. Shifting to renewables and really investing in renewable energy will create jobs all across the country. It will help build a burgeoning renewable energy industry. And it'll really put us at the forefront in terms of creating jobs, and Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act creates a fund and a center for dispersing these funds, and for making these investments in a way that makes sure that the bill is benefiting the most vulnerable communities. Low end communities, communities of color and those who are most impacted by climate change and the transition. So, it really is very thoughtful about making sure that as we're moving to 100% renewable, we're building our economy and we’re building our economy in a just and equitable way.

GREGORY WILPERT: Finally, given the recent slew of disasters, do you get a sense that the American public is readier to connect the dots as it were between fossil fuel use and climate change related disasters than they have been in the past, and therefore willing to support the candidates who are supporting the OFF Act?

MARK SCHLOSBERG: Absolutely. I mean, we've seen this last year, if anybody was wondering whether this is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed now. In your lead in, you mentioned the 300 billion dollar price tag, Put that price tag pales in comparison to the human cost of what's happened with Puerto Rico, with the hurricanes that hit Houston and Florida. With the fires that have ravaged the west. There's just been an overwhelming, and that's just been the United States, not even talking about the overwhelming impact of what happened, have happened in Africa and Asia, and elsewhere. So, this is a very real humanitarian problem. It's an economic problem and I think people are seeing that this is something that we really need to address.

The polling's starting to bear that out with more and more people wanting to support bold action on climate. Candidates are seeing this and they're reacting by pledging to support things like the Off Fossil Fuel Act. That's why here at Food and Water Action, we think it's really important to continue to push this at the state level and at the local level as we try and move things federally. I should note that if Democrats take control of Congress, they're going to be in a position to move a piece of legislation. It may not be signed by the president but they'll be able to move and begin to advance an agenda. And we really have a very short period of time where we need to make really bold change.

We need to do this in the next, really, four, five years. We need to pass something significant at the federal level and we need to pass these state bills in the next couple of years. Because we need to actually start reducing our emissions, making that transition because the science tells us we just don't have that much time.

GREGORY WILPERT: So, here at The Real News we're constantly following climate stories and will continue to follow this development around this bill. I'm speaking to Mark Schlosberg the National Organizing Director of Food and Water Action. Thanks again, Mark for having joined us today.


GREGORY WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network.


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