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Energy Recap: the good, the bad and the solutions

Over the past few weeks the environmental community has gotten both a taste of what collective action can achieve and a reminder of the challenges we continue to face.

A brilliant victory for communities within the Delaware River Basin and a punt on the Keystone XL pipeline decision have provided great momentum to stop dirty energy projects at the local level.

However, congressional inaction on a plan to reduce the national debt has allowed the oil and gas industry to maintain billions in tax incentives.

With both progress and setbacks, the groups and activists that are building the movement against fossil fuels and corporate polluters are taking stock to determine where we go from here.

Today, community meetings will take place all over the country to discuss ideas and plans to grow the movement.  Find out more about a meeting near you.

Read on for a quick recap of the recent developments in our work.

Delaware River Basin Commission Yields to Public Outcry

Collective outrage from people who depend on the Delaware River for drinking water and recreation overwhelmed the Delaware River Commission, forcing it to cancel its November 21 meeting.  The cancellation followed a public announcement by Governor Markell of Delaware that he would vote against the proposed gas drilling regulations, making it unclear whether the commission would have the three votes needed to pass the proposal.  Suspension of the vote means no well development can move forward in the Delaware River Basin.

A scheduled rally outside the meeting hall to protest the plan to open the basin to fracking took place despite the meeting’s indefinite postponement.

More than a thousand people turned out from all over the northeast to celebrate the victory and renew efforts to ban fracking.  Speakers addressing the activists included Josh Fox, Mark Ruffalo and Debra Winger.

Supercommittee Collapse

The deficit supercommittee failed to reach an agreement on a plan to reduce our national debt.  The failure triggers $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to housing, education and heating assistance programs and to agencies responsible for food safety and environmental protection.

But while these critical programs and agencies are facing huge cuts to their budgets, the oil and gas industry will hold on to billions of dollars in tax breaks.  Its ability to preserve these incentives in the face of rising energy prices and high corporate profits show just how much political muscle the industry has.

The good news is that public support to eliminate tax breaks for the oil and gas industry is overwhelming and will help keep pressure on the administration and Congress to resurrect the issue in future efforts to reform the tax code.

Keystone XL Pipeline: Bad for National Interest, Bad for Local Landowners

Even though the Obama administration has called for a new review of the pipeline that could thwart TransCanada’s efforts to transport tar sands oil through ecologically sensitive terrain, the corporation is still seeking to confiscate property from landowners for its pipeline by eminent domain.

According to an article in The New York Times, the company has at least 34 eminent domain actions against landowners in Texas and 22 in South Dakota.

Meanwhile, analysis by Public Citizen Energy Director Tyson Slocum adds new evidence to the argument that the pipeline is not in the national interest.  Read about what Canadian crude will do to U.S. gas prices.

Reinventing Fire

Despite a mixed bag in the world of energy and climate over the past several weeks, it is important to remember that while we fight to stop dirty energy projects and investment there are a wealth of clean solutions that we need to advocate for.

Like Dr. Arjun Makhijani’s report, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, released in 2008, Amory Lovins new book, Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era, offers a viable blueprint for a clean-energy economy.

The book lays out a plan for running a 158%-bigger U.S. economy in 2050 while eliminating our dependency on oil, coal, and nuclear energy.

The dirty energy industries’ go-to tactic is to pit the economy against the environment, claiming that environmental protections thwart economic growth and kill jobs.  Being armed with legitimate data that challenges that notion and provides a roadmap for clean energy is the perfect complement to a movement on the rise.