Purchasing power over politics: American consumers buy more clean energy and electric vehicles

By Jim Marston

Americans are switching to cleaner cars and electricity. In addition to being smart purchases, these clean energy choices could be a political statement. Consumers are choosing to use their hard-earned dollars to show what they want: clean energy, a clean economy, and government policies that reflect their values.

Last month, electric-car company Tesla was valued higher than General Motors, making it the most valuable U.S. carmaker based on market capitalization. Despite low gas prices, U.S. sales of plug-in electric vehicles increased by 70 percent in January from the same month in 2016. The Chevrolet Volt alone saw an 84 percent increase during the same time.

The increase in electric car sales isn’t surprising in light of The Consumer as Climate Activist, a scientific article published by researchers from Yale University, George Mason University, and the University of Texas. They found that Americans are more likely to engage in consumer activism than political activism to combat climate change. And consumer activism for clean energy is on the rise.

According to Dallas-based Clearview Energy, which provides customers with electricity generated by water, solar, wind, and geothermal power, their web sales have increased by 500 percent since the presidential election in November.

Purchasing power over politics: American consumers buy more clean energy and electric cars
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Clearview CEO Frank McGovern says, “Every time Trump threatens to dismantle the EPA, our green energy plan sales skyrocket.”

These trends suggest that Americans could be fighting back with their purchasing power against the Trump administration’s assault on clean energy, which has been far-reaching since his inauguration in January:

  • Newly-minted Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recently ordered the Energy Department to study whether requiring coal plants to reduce their pollution while incentivizing cleaner energy sources is responsible for coal’s irreversible decline. The results of a study based on this premise are primed for use as propaganda to prop up the uneconomic coal industry, because government data clearly shows low natural gas prices, declining electricity demand, and plummeting costs for renewables are the reasons for coal’s demise.
  • Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, released in March, aimed to significantly defund a number of federal clean energy programs and energy efficiency efforts (including the broadly-supported Energy Star program). While Congress recently reached a budget deal to fund these critical programs through fiscal year 2017, September (when the 2018 budget must be voted on) is now the new showdown date for the future of federally-funded clean energy programs.
  • Trump said he would review car fuel-efficiency protections that require the industry to deliver a fleet average of at least 54.5 mpg by 2025. California Gov. Jerry Brown called the President’s move toward potentially axing clean cars an “unconscionable gift for polluters.” California and New York plan to challenge the action with a lawsuit against the EPA.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has publicly questioned whether carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change.

As consumers, we can use our purchases to change the way power is made and change the powers that be. So let’s be smart, let’s be strategic, and let’s fight the good fight. You have choices as a consumer – whether you’re buying your next car, choosing your electricity provider, installing solar on your home roof, or replacing a home appliance. Make a statement and choose to buy clean.

Photo credit: John Rae

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Authorities seize truck with more than 800 dogs, jam-packed in cages, bound for slaughter at Yulin

Hundreds of activists, including many belonging to our partner group, Guangzhou Animal Rescue, played a key role in the massive seizure of dogs bound for the Guangzhou province, known as the “world capital of dog meat consumption.” Photo by LJQ

Working on a tip from activists (including Humane Society International partner groups) just two days before the “official” start of the dog meat “festival” in Yulin, authorities have seized a truck transporting more than 800 dogs to a dog meat market. After 10 hours of negotiation, the dogs were handed over to the activists. At . . . 

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With methane plan, New York doubles down on climate protections

By Mark Brownstein

New York is now the latest in a growing number of states cracking down on methane – the powerful greenhouse gas responsible for about a quarter of global warming.

The effort comes on the heels of a successful senate vote to uphold methane limits for oil and gas companies operating on our nation’s public and tribal lands, and sends yet another strong message to the oil and gas industry that Americans want and expect commonsense standards that  protect our health and natural resources.

Governor Cuomo’s new plan takes a comprehensive approach to tackling methane from the state’s biggest emission sources: landfills, agriculture, and the oil and gas industry. Collectively, the twenty-five reduction strategies outlined will allow New York to significantly curb methane pollution and allow the state to deliver on its 2030 climate target.

One of the biggest opportunities for methane reductions is in the oil and gas sector, where companies can eliminate nearly half of current emissions at minimal cost.

This is a strong move by Governor Cuomo at the exact right time.

The Trump administration has initiated a series of efforts in recent months to dismantle our nation’s clean air safeguards, including those that address oil and gas methane emissions.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a stay on protections that would have reduced methane from new oil and gas facilities. And before that the agency announced it would no longer collect data about emissions from existing facilities.

But Trump’s home state is signaling a refusal to be deterred.

Cuomo’s plan will reinstate EPA standards for New York’s oil and gas facilities and calls for additional measures to reduce systematic methane leaks from pipelines, storage facilities and old, abandoned wells.

As one of the nation’s top five consumers of gas, New York has a special responsibility to ensure it is transported and distributed responsibly. By implementing measures to reducing emissions from natural gas gathering lines, transmission facilities and gas utility pipelines, New York is stepping up to the task.

Reducing methane from the oil and gas sector – whether it’s the well head or city pipelines – is one of the most cost-effective ways to take on one of the worst climate offenders and shore up our nation’s energy security.  Standards that require oil and gas companies to take methane out of the atmosphere and deliver more energy to our communities are the exact kind of protections that the majority of American’s support.  Continued state leadership – like this latest effort in New York – is critical to assuring Americans across the country that those safeguards will be in place.

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HSUS investigation pulls the curtain back on tiger abuse by traveling circus trainer

It’s painful to watch a grown man whipping a majestic tiger and watching the world’s most powerful predator flinch  and cower in fear.

It’s painful to watch a grown man whipping a majestic tiger and watching the world’s most powerful predator flinch and cower in fear. Photo by The HSUS

A new HSUS undercover investigation reveals the mistreatment of eight tigers featured in Ryan Easley’s ShowMe Tigers act – a traveling circus gig that is contracted out to branded circuses. It’s painful to watch a grown man whipping a majestic tiger as the world’s most powerful predator flinches and cowers in fear. It’s a coercive . . . 

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There’s no avoiding it, business must lead on climate

By Tom Murray

A few weeks ago, I attended the Earth Day Network’s Climate Leadership Gala in Washington, DC.  Each year the event brings together more than 300 leaders from business, government and the NGO community to celebrate achievements in working towards a clean energy future. This year’s top honor, the Climate Visionary Award, was presented to Unilever CEO Paul Polman for his commitment to fighting climate change.

Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDFBold, passionate leadership like Polman’s is essential to tackling climate change while helping to create an economy that benefits us all. He understands that it’s not a choice between business and the environment. In fact, a thriving economy depends on a thriving environment.

Corporate sustainability leadership is now more important than ever. It’s clear that the Trump Administration’s efforts to roll-back environmental protections have thrust U.S. businesses into a critical leadership role on clean energy and climate change. (In fact, I’ll be talking with business leaders later today about how they are “responding to the new norm” at the Sustainable Brands Conference.)

A thriving economy depends on a thriving environment – why business must lead on climate – @tpmurray
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Over the past 25 years at EDF we’ve seen corporate sustainability go from simple operational efficiencies to global supply chain collaborations; now it’s time to go further. Business must continue to raise the bar for sustainability leadership.


  1. Set big goals, then tell the world

 Thinking big and setting big goals, are required to drive big innovation and big results.  Many large companies have demonstrated that if you commit to aggressive, science-based, sustainability goals, you can deliver meaningful business and environmental results. For example, Walmart, a longtime EDF partner with a track record of setting aggressive yet achievable climate goals, has recently set its sights even higher by setting a goal to source half of the company’s energy from renewable sources by 2025 and by launching Project Gigaton, a cumulative one gigaton emissions reduction in its supply chain by 2030.

And Walmart is not the only one. Other companies are stepping up as well – especially around commitments to go 100 percent renewable. Whether its online marketplace eBay committing to 100 percent renewable power in all data centers & offices by 2025, Tesco, one of the world’s largest retailers, announcing science-based targets and committing to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 or AB InBev committing to 100 percent renewable power, companies from diverse industries are taking a positive step forward.

While setting goals is a great first step, companies also need to communicate about the goals and progress. Not only does this increase transparency into a business’ sustainability efforts, it lets the world know that sustainability is core to its business. Publicly committing to sustainability goals sends a strong signal to suppliers, shareholders and customers.

  1. Collaborate for scale

In December 2016 I wrote about Smithfield Foods, the world’s number one pork producer, and its plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2025. The commitment was important both because Smithfield was the first major protein company to adopt a greenhouse gas reduction goal but also because the reductions would come from across Smithfield’s supply chain, on company-owned farms, at processing facilities and throughout its transportation network.

Smithfield understands that some environmental challenges are too big to handle on their own, and they know collaboration is the key to deliver impact at scale.

Other companies are also looking beyond their own supply chain and forming mutually beneficial partnerships. Take the recent partnership between UPS and Sealed Air Corporation, for example. The two companies have announced the opening of a Packaging Innovation Center in Louisville, Kentucky where they will solve the packaging and shipping challenges of e-commerce retailers but also drive new efficiencies while minimizing waste. This is a critical issue that is material to both their businesses, and by joining forces, are finding ways to solve an environmental challenge while improving their bottom lines.

  1. Publicly support smart climate policy

I can’t stress how critical it is right now for business leaders to move beyond their comfort zones and make their voices heard on smart climate and environmental policy. If you want to be a sustainability leader, continuing to hoe your own garden is no longer enough.  You need to align your strategy, operations, AND advocacy.  We know that environmental safeguards drive innovation, create jobs, and support long-term strategic planning.

The good news is leading voices are chiming in, from CEOs signing an open letter to Trump to more than 1,000 companies signing the Low-Carbon USA letter, in favor of environmental policies.

Some companies like Tiffany & Co. are also taking a public stand on their own. The company used its usual ad position in the New York Times to tell President Trump directly that Tiffany is backing policies that will lead us to a clean energy future.

The Way Forward

Taking the leadership mantle is never easy, but now is the time for every corporate leader to get off the sidelines and into the game. There’s plenty of room for more leaders like Polman who are ready to address climate change head-on, creating opportunities for economic growth, new jobs, and a cleaner future.  Will your company be next?

Follow Tom Murray on Twitter: @TPMurray

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Investors Can’t Diversify Away from Climate Risk

By Namrita Kapur

With the U.S. role in the Paris Climate Agreement hanging in the balance, over 280 investors managing a collective $17 trillion in assets spoke up in support of the agreement:

As long-term institutional investors, we believe that the mitigation of climate change is essential for the safeguarding of our investments. . . . . We urge all nations to stand by their commitments to the agreement.

Why do investors care?  As pointed out in a blog earlier this year, for investors, it all comes down to risk and return. And, where climate change is concerned, this is a risk that is omnipresent.

Simply put, investors cannot diversify away from the risks of climate change. Unlike other risks such as currency fluctuations or new regulations, the disruptive impacts of climate change on the global economic system are so pervasive they cannot be offset by simply shifting stock portfolios from one industry to another.

A study from Cambridge University found equity portfolios face losses of up to 45% from climate shocks, with only half of these losses being “hedgeable.” Likewise, The Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that investors are at risk of losing $4.2 trillion by 2100, with losses accruing across sectors from real estate to telecom and manufacturing.

Because investors recognize that climate risk is unavoidable, they support a coordinated global effort as envisioned in the Paris Agreement. It is also why investors have already expressed such strong support for regulatory limits on carbon and methane emissions.  Governments globally will need to take further proactive action to limit greenhouse gases, and incentivize technology shifts towards lower-carbon energy.

Seizing opportunities in a low-carbon economy

Technology changes will require significant adjustments in how global capital is allocated, which is an opportunity investors are eager to seize because of the promise of risk-adjusted returns in the space.

It is estimated that a shift to a clean-energy economy will require $93 trillion in new investments between 2015 and 2030 and the rise of impact investing shows markets are starting to respond to opportunities in renewable energy, grid modernization, and energy efficiency among others.

For example, the green bond market has grown from $11 billion to $81 billion between 2011 and 2016 with projections for 2017 as high as $150 billion. On top of this, leading global investment banks have already pledged billions towards sustainable investing.

And where capital flows, so do jobs.

As we’re seeing in the US, renewable energy jobs grew at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 6% between 2012 and 2015 and the solar industry is creating jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy.  Similarly, the methane mitigation industry is putting Americans and Canadians to work limiting highly potent emissions from oil and gas development.

Technology and capital changes are already happening, but are unlikely to happen quickly enough on their own.  Government policies and frameworks that speed this transition, like a price on carbon, will be critical.

Which brings us back to the importance of the Paris Agreement…

The Paris Agreement is crucial to addressing climate change

Investors vote with their dollars, and are strongly backing U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. Global investors understand the risk of climate change and see the Paris Agreement as a good return on investment, with an optimistic $17 trillion nod to the power of capital markets to provide the innovation and jobs we need if the right policies are in place. The U.S. administration should ensure it is considering the voice of investors and the capital they stand ready to put to use as it makes its decision.

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Scott Pruitt, the public has spoken – and it wants health protections, not rollbacks

By Martha Roberts

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Earlier this year, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced an effort to seek public input on EPA safeguards that should be revoked or rolled back to “reduce regulatory burden.”

What was the overwhelming message he heard in response?

Let EPA do its job and protect Americans from dangerous pollution.

Numerous news articles have detailed the tens of thousands of responses EPA received from individual Americans decrying Pruitt’s biased, predetermined effort to gut important safeguards. These public comments are still being uploaded onto an official website — but already there are more than 183,000 of them, and the overwhelming majority are in favor of strong EPA safeguards.

As one comment reminded Pruitt:

Future generations are counting on us to leave an environment that supports good health, and a world worth living in. Don’t jeopardize the progress that has been made by rolling back regulations that are taking us in the right direction. Your job is to protect the environment for the benefit of all, not to squander progress for the financial gain of a few.

Another citizen noted during a listening session:

I actually enjoy breathing clean air and drinking clean water and would find it quite burdensome not to.

It’s well documented that EPA safeguards are an incredible American success story, saving countless lives and improving health across the country. We’ve made tremendous strides in improving air quality, reducing toxic lead and mercury pollution, addressing acid rain, and other remarkable achievements — all while the economy has grown and added jobs.

We still have more work to do though. According to the American Lung Association, more than 125 million Americans live in communities with unhealthy levels of air pollution.

Industry pushes for rollbacks

EPA senior officials are due to present a report to Pruitt today on their progress in identifying safeguards to repeal or roll back – not even two weeks after the rushed public comment period ended.

It’s hard to know if this report will be made public, but we are starting to get a glimpse of the input that Pruitt and his team are hearing from those who oppose vital safeguards.

For instance, the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) 25-page list of requests includes weakening protections against smog and undercutting common-sense standards to curb harmful methane and toxic air pollution from oil and gas production.

API’s list also complains that EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Panel is “biased” because “it can be difficult for industry representatives to be included on the committees.”

As we wrote about in an earlier post, these industry requests come on top of an earlier solicitation by the Trump Administration for industry proposals to roll back protections — one where trade associations brazenly asked for cuts to important health studies and safeguards.

Politicians target safeguards against mercury, smog, and other dangers

One remarkable letter to EPA came from eight state politicians. As has been well documented, while Scott Pruitt was Oklahoma’s Attorney General he spearheaded an intertwined alliance between state attorneys general and major fossil fuel industries — going so far as to submit industry requests to EPA on Oklahoma letterhead and later noting that’s “actually called representative government in my view of the world.”

In the new letter, Pruitt’s attorney general allies detail a list of twenty bedrock safeguards to weaken or eliminate. These include protections against mercury pollution, smog, soot, and many others.

These eight politicians even ask EPA to reject the agency’s science-based conclusion that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare — a conclusion based on an extensive, exhaustive record that was upheld by a federal court of appeals several years ago. Their letter makes no mention of the citizens who would be sickened and harmed by these roll backs.

The signatories are the attorneys general from Michigan, Oklahoma, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Scott Pruitt: don’t put Americans’ health at risk

With EPA’s help, we’ve made remarkable progress in cleaning up our air and water. The American public just delivered a clear and overwhelming message to Scott Pruitt – don’t risk that tremendous progress, or the health of our families, by rolling back EPA safeguards.

Administrator Pruitt should listen.

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Federal legislation introduced to ban doping of horses

The Horseracing Integrity Act introduced today is a step up from prior versions of the bill, not least because it seeks to bring regulation to all of horse racing and to ban any same-day drugging of horses. Photo by iStockphoto

Today, two lawmakers from Congressional districts with major horse hoofprints – Reps. Andy Barr, R-Ky., and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y. – introduced legislation to end any doping of Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Quarter horses in the business of pari-mutuel racing. This legislation seeks to launch a new era in the racing industry, which for decades has resisted . . . 

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