Young voters lead decisive victory against Big Oil’s Prop 23

Posted: November 5, 2010 in GREEN, Helping Hands Events, Table Of Contents, TRUTH / Occupy
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Re-posted from “It’s Getting Hot in Here” student climate activist org.

Young voters lead decisive victory against Big Oil’s Prop 23

gabrielelsner | November 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Categories: global warming | URL:

Thousands stand up to Big Oil and defeat Proposition 23

Young voters celebrated a decisive victory against Big Oil by defeating a deceptive ballot measure, Prop 23. The initiative, funded with millions of dollars from oil corporations sought to wreck California’s clean energy economy and effectively repeal the state’s landmark clean air and clean energy laws.

The California Student Sustainability Coalition’s Power Vote Campaign united thousands of young Californians behind a creative grassroots campaign that exposed Big Oil’s dirty ploy, and mobilized thousands of voters to defeat it. The campaign partnered with student networks across the state to turn out the youth vote, worked with a community coalition to launch the Clean Energy Tour, a music tour merging arts and activism, and directly confronted oil interests bank-rolling the initiative, like the Koch Brothers. Joel Francis, a student leader at Cal State, Los Angeles brought national attention to this issue when he challenged oilman Charles Koch to a public debate on his bank-rolling of Proposition 23. His debate challenge drew national coverage from New York Times, BusinessWeek, Forbes, and Huffington Post.

Our efforts, along with dozens of coalition partners, helped to expose the truth behind Proposition 23 – that it was an oil company funded initiative meant to stop California from moving forward at the expense of our health, our national security, and our economy.
Power Vote California’s “No on 23” campaign, in partnership with CALPIRG and Environment California, helped to organize on over 50 campuses and collected over 160,000 pledges from young people to vote “No” on Proposition 23.

In the final days, campuses across the state used brass-tacks organizing tactics and an online new media strategy to get out the youth vote. Below are just a few examples of the incredible student leadership working to get out the vote in the closing hours of the campaign.
• Powervote at CSU Chico paraded students to the polls for five hours yesterday at the busiest intersection on campus. On Monday night, leaders called 600 students who pledged to vote No on Prop 23 and 26 in the past month. Throughout the Election Day, groups of students covered in bright green announced the importance of the youth vote and led students from class to the polls. With a live band attracting the attention of thousands of students, CSU Chico students mobilized their peers to the polls to stop the dirty energy propositions.
• Student and community leaders mobilized people to vote as part of the Clean Energy Tour – a 6-city hip hop concert tour focused on getting out the vote. The Clean Energy Tour helped unite a broad coalition of groups including the California Student Sustainability Coalition, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and the Greenlining Institute. The downtown Sacramento stop brought students and community leaders together to educate and activate around prop 23 and 26 – both funded by millions of dollars from out-of-state oil companies.
• City College of San Francisco Green Corps held a huge phone bank to contact over 1000 students in the final hours before Election Day – all while streaming the World Series LIVE. The students had to take a small break as the San Francisco Giants clenched the World Series title for the first time in history. The rap was slightly modified to include the line, “We know with your help, we can stop Texas again tomorrow by stopping the dirty energy proposition.”

Courtney Hight, the Executive Director of Energy Action Coalition had this to say about the outcome in California: “In an election that’s been characterized by record corporate spending, capitulation to moderation, and a lack of leadership behind clean energy, the victory against Proposition 23 demonstrates that the youth vote is capable of delivering a victory for clean energy when clear choices are on the table. Clean energy victories will continue to motivate young voters and we’ll build off of this decisive victory to create more of them.”

The battle against Proposition 23 illuminated that across the country Big Oil and special interests are corrupting our democratic process. These dirty energy industries will continue to spend millions upon millions of dollars to try and stop our progress. Our generation understands what is at stake – our health, our national security, and our economy – and they know that the clean energy will help rebuild and reinvigorate our country.

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Moving Beyond Dirty Politics and into the New Energy Economy

After months of debating and endless news coverage, the congressional elections are finally behind us. Though the results of these elections will determine much of our nation’s direction for the next few years, the elections themselves have told us something significant about our country and where we stand today.

As a young person and a voter, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed by what has become a custom among candidates: all over the country and among both parties, politicians welcomed the influence of dirty money into the political process. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon Off-shore drilling disaster last April, candidates raked in campaign contributions from fossil fuel industries, some accepting sums totaling over $1 million. How should I have confidence in our leaders when the very industries that funded their campaigns are those corrupting the political agenda, last year spending a combined total of $175 million on lobbying?


A controversial yet prescient ad illustrating the role of Big Oil in Congress,

But it’s clear that for these industries, this is money well worth shelling out: in the oil industry alone, federal subsidies and tax breaks range between $6 and 39 billion annually. Between 2002-2008, federal fossil fuel subsidies totaled $72.5 billion, going toward tax expenditures, foregone revenues, grants, and direct payments. $14 billion of this total goes to funding oil production overseas; that’s money going to major polluters and not toward creating jobs at home. In 2006, tax expenditures to oil and gas companies made up approximately 88% of total federal subsidies. Most of the largest dirty energy subsidies have been written into the U.S Tax Code as permanent provisions. We’re channeling taxpayer dollars into an industry that is already well established and wealthy and locking ourselves into the gray energy economy.

Meanwhile, our economy is stagnating and the job market is looking bleak, especially for my generation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in July of this year, the U.S youth unemployment rate rose to 19%, the highest on record.

On the other hand, many studies show that every $1 investment in clean technology sectors will produce four times as many jobs as the same investment in oil and gas. A study from University of Massachusetts-Amherst found that shifting investments from dirty to clean energy would produce 7,686 jobs in my home state of New Hampshire.

Now that the results are in and the campaign noise has died down, there is much left at stake. Many newly elected candidates have expressed the priority of cutting wasteful and unnecessary programs from the fiscal budget, while stimulating domestic job growth and encouraging new economic drivers. President Obama’s 2011 fiscal budget proposes to repeal tax breaks for major industries like Exxon Mobil, freeing up $20 billion and saving an estimated $45 billion over the next ten years, funds which could be re-funneled to green jobs training programs, energy efficiency, and clean energy development.

Ironically, these wasteful dirty energy subsidies are likely to be protected by industry-entrenched members of congress simultaneously calling for fiscal restraint and job creation.

Not only is dirty money flooding our democracy, but it’s seeping into international territory as well. Despite the commitment made last September among the Group of 20 major economies to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, estimates for 2009 subsidies to dirty energy industries was in the vicinity of $100 billion, or roughly 1% of world GDP. President Obama’s leadership could be instrumental in prompting other countries to follow suit.

In one month, heads of state and negotiators from around the world will gather in Cancun to discuss international efforts to address climate change. The U.S has done relatively little to lead the clean energy economy: if we go in empty-handed, we will be hard-pressed to encourage other countries to take steps toward reducing greenhouse gases. Besides being a major emitter, last year China became the leading wind turbine and solar photovoltaic manufacturer, doubling its wind capacity and outpacing us in new wind installations. How can we point the finger while we sit on our hands?

I have the opportunity and the privilege to attend these negotiations as a representative of youth and civil society. Rather than witness our nation’s humiliation on the international stage, I’d like to see us lead in the way that we’ve lead throughout history.


President Obama is a crucial player in building the green economy in the United States.

When we took on expansion of the national railroad network under President Lincoln and when President Kennedy committed to putting a man on the moon with the Apollo Mission, we showed our ability to advance in the face of considerable challenges. We can build the new energy economy, but to do so we must stop the flow of dirty money that’s bloating our fiscal budget, polluting our democracy, choking our economy, and hampering international cooperation.

We need President Obama and Congress, Democrats and Republicans, to rise above dirty and partisan politics and show the sort of leadership that history will remember. We can start by eliminating wasteful government spending and investing in innovative job opportunities; by saying no to Big Oil and yes to green jobs for American workers.


This post is the first of a series on Obama, the UN Climate Negotiations, and the clean energy future, so stay tuned for more news in the lead-up to Cancun.


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