Is President Obama Standing With Us or Big Oil? Millennials Won’t Wait to Find Out

Energy Action Coalition Co-Director Courtney Hight responds to President Obama’s weekend off-shore drilling announcement, cross-posted from

Gas prices are at an all-time high; Big Oil is receiving massive taxbreaks on top of record profits, while middle America struggles to get by; and the Gulf Coast is still suffering from the BP drilling disaster. So what to do?

President Obama’s most recent response? Promote Big Oil’s false solutions, despite overwhelming support for standing up to Big Oil, reigning them in, and making them pay their fair share.

The President is faced with some tough choices; I heard them from him first-hand in a meeting one month ago. As 10,000 people descended on Washington, DC for Power Shift 2011, eleven young grassroots leaders and I were invited to the Roosevelt Room to meet with senior White House officials.

When we showed up at the White House we didn’t expect the President to be in the meeting, but when he walked in holding a copy of that day’s Washington Post story about the 10,000 young people arriving at Power Shift 2011 (“Youth at environment summit unhappy with Obama policies”), we knew we had an opportunity.

President Barack Obama drops by a meeting with PowerShift Leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, April 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)President Barack Obama drops by a meeting with PowerShift Leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, April 15, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

We sat down face-to-face with President Obama for a full half-hour, debating our nation’s energy future, and ultimately laying down the conclusion we need an 100% clean energy economy, and drawing our line in the sand: “If it’s not clean energy, don’t call it that.”

In the month since meeting with the President at Power Shift 2011, we’ve seen the President speak forcefully and repeatedly about the need to eliminate handouts for Big Oil and shift those subsidies to clean energy investments.

However, as we told President Obama in that meeting, our generation will not be satisfied by rhetoric, to win over young people we need to see action. This weekend was a perfect example of the President’s contradictory dance with Big Oil that is frustrating his base.

On Friday night I was excited to receive an email from Obama Campaign Director Jim Messina talking about the need to stand up to Big Oil and build a movement to change the way Washington works.

So when I woke up Saturday morning and heard the announcement that under pressure to relieve gas prices President Obama is expanding and speeding up dangerous offshore drilling — despite his own acknowledgement that it won’t do a thing to bring down gas prices — I was infuriated.

Just as it feels like we’re building a movement to stand up to Big Oil in Washington, DC to end billions in tax-breaks and handouts, President Obama decided to play politics as usual. Just as we’re about to have votes in Congress that will expose those standing with Big Oil vs. whose standing with the American public, President Obama hands away a bargaining chip that shouldn’t be on the table to begin with.

Now let’s be clear, the environment in Washington is ugly.

Big Oil’s cronies like Majority Leader John Boehner have been working nonstop to force through a Big Polluter agenda, funded by dirty corporations like the big oil baron Koch Brothers, seeking to undermine critical public health safeguards like the Clean Air Act. Now they are desperately spreading lies about the cause of high gas prices in an effort to maintain the $4 billion in handouts that line their piggy banks.

The correct response isn’t to try to assuage the public’s concerns with ineffective measures that continue to threaten the health of the Gulf, the American public and the planet — the correct response is to continue to stand up to Big Oil, speak the truth and advance policy that can really address the American people’s needs and concerns.

Thousands of Americans, including the 10,000 young people at Power Shift 2011, are calling for this, only to be overshadowed by the special interest agenda.

If President Obama is unsure about what real action for clean energy looks like, he should look to the young people who also took action this week, and follow their lead.

This Saturday, graduating seniors at Worcester Polytechnic Institute jeopardized their ability to walk in commencement to stand up against Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson speaking at their graduation. They were tired of his lies being unchallenged, so they arranged for an alternative commencement speaker who would bring some truth and integrity to the ceremonies.

And, as the HuffingtonPost reported on Friday, when charges were dropped against 21 young people who staged a sit-in at the Department of Interior, they didn’t celebrate, they started planning their next action.

Young people remain determined and ready to confront the Big Polluters and their cronies and we will continue as long as the atrocious practices and policies that threaten the health of people, communities and the planet persist.

We wont give up on ending Big Oil handouts. This week the Senate is expected to vote on a proposal to end them, and young people will be there to voice our demands. On Tuesday, we’re delivering the voices of thousands of people who have called for an end to Big Oil handouts. We’ll be there on the steps of the Capitol calling for it today, and we’ll be out there organizing for it tomorrow. The question is will the President be with us?

Glenn Beck Says You Don’t Love Your Mom

Send a Mother's Day E-CardA few weeks ago, Glenn Beck warned his Fox News audience of a grave new threat: you!

Beck cautioned his viewers that the 10,000 young people organizing for a clean energy future at Power Shift 2011 were “radicals” being brainwashed to “kill their parents”. Naturally, we were alarmed, but after carefully reviewing the Power Shift agenda we concluded that no workshops on Matricide were secretly added to the program.

Send your mom a Power Shift e-card to wish her a radical Mother’s Day! Continue reading ‘Glenn Beck Says You Don’t Love Your Mom’

President Obama, Dream Bigger

Yesterday morning President Obama spoke at Georgetown University and laid out his vision for securing our energy future. Speaking directly to the students in the room, the President told us:

“We need you to dream big. We need you to summon that same spirit of unbridled optimism, that bold willingness to tackle tough challenges and see those challenges through that led previous generations to rise to greatness.”

Make Big Polluters PayWe agree, now is the time to dream big. Our dream is a 100% safe, equitable, and clean energy economy, and we’re working to build it — but what President Obama is proposing is a dirty energy nightmare:

  • Despite the nuclear crisis in Japan, the Administration has suggested more support for this dangerous energy;
  • Last week, they announced they’re opening 2.35 million tons of coal mining in the Powder River Basin, enough coal to scorch the planet;
  • And just this morning reports are breaking that President Obama may cave to Big Polluters and accept amendments to the budget that would handcuff the EPA and jeopardize clean air.

Dirty energy is placing an unbearable burden on the American public, and Big Polluters are being handed massive handouts at the expense of critical programs like the EPA and Planned Parenthood.

Is it too much to dream of an America where polluters are held accountable for their disasters? Is it too much to dream of an America where people aren’t burdened with the cost of pollution? Is it too much to dream of an America where citizens are in charge of our energy decisions, not big polluters? We don’t think so. Continue reading ‘President Obama, Dream Bigger’

Al Gore is joining YOU at Power Shift 2011!

Join Al Gore at Power ShiftWe’ve got exciting news: Nobel Peace Prize Winner, former Vice President, and long-standing climate advocate Al Gore will be joining us at Power Shift 2011!

Vice President Gore has been a lifelong champion for climate science – from hosting the first Congressional hearings on the climate crisis in 1976, to bringing science to the public through An Inconvenient Truth – so we’re excited for him to bring his experience and knowledge to Power Shift 2011.

Register for Power Shift today!

Read Vice President Gore’s note to you below, and join his call to action!

Dear Power Shifters,

This year, I will deliver the opening keynote address at Power Shift. I’ll be speaking about climate change and how we can take action to solve the climate crisis.

I’m coming to Power Shift because I truly believe we must lead the world to a clean energy future, and young leaders like you are the driving force behind the movement that will make it happen.

Continue reading ‘Al Gore is joining YOU at Power Shift 2011!’

CarnivOIL: Senate Plays Games, Big Oil Has Fun

Cross-posted from the Consequence Blog

Senate staffers expecting a typical morning commute were in for a surprise yesterday when they stepped out of Union Station and into a Big Oil Carnival.

While our literal Big Oil Carnival — complete with oil-themed midway games, Tony Hayward clowns, and an enthusiastic, stilt walking Uncle Sam — may have been out of the ordinary, it should have felt familiar for anyone who works on Capitol Hill.

The unfortunate reality is that every single day in the U.S. Senate is a carnival of Big Oil.

At every opportunity, a minority of Senators who are in the pocket of America’s largest polluters choose political games and obstruction over working together to solve America’s energy and climate crisis. As a result of their actions, the big polluters will continue to reap record profits at the expense of Americans.

Continue reading ‘CarnivOIL: Senate Plays Games, Big Oil Has Fun’

Our Generation Needs Clean Energy Jobs

Apply Now for a Clean Energy Future

Send your résumé to Congress and tell them we need clean energy jobs

Graduation is a time of transition and new challenges. For many of us who recently graduated, or will in the coming years, it is also a moment of deep uncertainty. We face both the immediate challenge of surging youth unemployment, and the long-term threat of a world plagued by catastrophic climate change.

Our future hinges on another transition: America’s shift to a new clean energy economy.

Our generation was hit disproportionately hard by the recession. A Pew Research study showed that fully 37% of young people aged 18-29 were unemployed or involuntarily out of the workforce in 2009. Unfortunately, 2010 isn’t looking much better.

While no one piece of legislation will solve both our economic and environmental crises, passing a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill will have a dramatic impact on both issues.

A 21st century clean energy economy has the potential to create millions of new jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. It has the potential to create a sustainable future powered by clean, efficient, renewable energy sources.

Continue reading ‘Our Generation Needs Clean Energy Jobs’

Look Out for Oil Barrels

As crude oil washes up on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and continues to gush unabated from ocean floor, you would think that even pollution-friendly Senators would be wary of voting for an anti-science resolution that does nothing but pad the pockets of Big Oil. If that Senator is Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, however, you would be wrong.

Next Thursday, June 10th, Murkowski will finally introduce her long-threatened Dirty Air Act resolution which would strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gasses. It’s shocking that at this moment — when we should be holding oil companies accountable for their reckless environmental destruction — Senator Murkowski is pushing to let them off the hook.

It’s time for clean energy solutions, not another Big Oil Bailout!

We want to create a visual that senators can’t possibly miss, so all next week young people will be out in force on Capitol Hill and in states around the country wearing large oil barrels to demand senators oppose the Dirty Air Act and support comprehensive climate legislation.
Continue reading ‘Look Out for Oil Barrels’

Earth Day 40

Cross-posted from the Co2ncequence Blog

Welcome to the 40th Earth Day.

As the world celebrates 40 years of moving toward a cleaner, more environmentally friendly future, here in the biggest fight of our lives, this day is about work.

As youth, we see a future with a vastly different climate than what we have today, less jobs and dependence on foreign countries for energy. We see a country mired in 20th century policy as we delve deep into the 21st century. We will see more and more young Americans go off to fight wars that are funded on both sides by our insatiable desire for oil.

That is why the work cannot stop. We need a Senate brave enough to make to make history. We need to cut our dependence on oil, by building a clean energy economy. We need to cut our use of coal by putting a cap on carbon. We need to fight climate change by passing comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, making our world livable and our economy strong. Continue reading ‘Earth Day 40′

Earth to C02ngress: Act on Climate NOW!

72 Hours for Clean American PowerRising sea levels. Stronger storms. Melting ice caps. Increased famine, disease, and drought. This doesn’t have to be our future – or our legacy.

Our planet is in peril and we need our Senators to pass a strong climate bill this year. We are at a critical moment, not only for our planet, but for our country. A new bipartisan proposal is taking shape, and may be introduced in the Senate as soon as this week.

The question is, will this bill create the clean energy economy we need, or will it fall victim to lobbyists from Big Oil and Coal who will fight tooth and nail to maintain our addiction to dirty fuel?

Today, we are joining with dozens of organizations across the issue spectrum to launch a massive grassroots call-in campaign: 72 Hours for Clean American Power. Together, we will flood Senate phone lines to make sure voices for clean energy are heard over the special interests.

Join in! Add your voice to the call for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.
Continue reading ‘Earth to C02ngress: Act on Climate NOW!’

Hip Hop Caucus Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour Launch in New Orleans

Cross-posted from Hip Hop Caucus

Tour Launch at Dillard University

Great start to the Hip Hop Caucus Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour. Rev. Yearwood, joined by D. Woods, Gloria Reuben, DJ Biz Markie, and community and student leaders, rallied with hundreds of students on Dillard University’s campus in a call for clean energy.

The tour bus arrived at Dillard University at noon. As the sound systems were brought online and the music began to play, students gathered in anticipation of the events to come.

Continue reading ‘Hip Hop Caucus Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour Launch in New Orleans’

Jeff Mann

Jeff is the Online Director for the Energy Action Coalition.

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