Energy Smart Debbie

Amid skyrocketing oil, gasoline, coal, and electricity (coming to a neighborhood near you) prices, 2008 offers Americans quite serious and stark choices between knowledgeable, impassioned, and thoughtful candidates when it comes to finding paths toward a prosperous 21st century economy, on the one side, and Fossil-Fool candidates focused on tightening our shackles to the ever-more costly (pollution, financial, otherwise) and archaic oil-coal based energy system.

One of these stark choices comes in California’s 46th district, where Huntington Beach Mayor Debbie Cook is running against ten-term Congressman Dana Rohrbacher.

Debbie was one of the first on the Energy Smart Act Blue page. Join me after the fold for some indications as to why.

First the List

The Energy Smart Act Blue page focuses on challengers who offer an opportunity to change the discussion and votes when it comes to energy and environmental issues in Congress. ((For a more complete discussion.) In some cases, these are incredibly “Energy Smart” candidates; in other cases, their opponents are incredibly Energy/Earth Dumb, and, actually, they are mainly both at the same time. What is the Energy Smart Act Blue’s core principle:

All of the candidates on this list will help foster a Congress and political climate conducive for more meaningful action toward a Prosperous, Climate Friendly America through dealing with the challenges of Peak Oil and Global Warming.

Perhaps the greatest example of Energy Smart vs Energy Dumb? Extremely Energy Smart Debbie running against quite energy illiterate and Energy Dumb Dana.

A word about Dana

To start with, let us quote from one of the village voices, David Brooks, as he remarks on a remarkable competition to be the “the biggest blithering idiot” among a group of Congressmen.

There’s “a foul odor that’s coming out of the U.S. Senate!” bellowed Representative Dana Rohrabacher of California, who then went on to win the prize by suggesting that instead of using illegal aliens to harvest crops, we force felons to do it. “I say, Let the prisoners pick the fruits!”

Here was a seemingly mentally competent adult recommending that we force a largely minority population to go out in the fields and pick lettuce and cotton. You wanted to hit him over the head and scream: Is this ringing any bells, Representative Rohrabacher? Are we repealing the Emancipation Proclamation, too?

There’s Dana on Iraq:

We’re not talking about war on Iraq. That’s totally misleading. We’re talking about helping the people of Iraq liberate themselves from this monster and, in doing so, alleviate a major threat to the security and well-being of the people of the United States of America. … this job in Iraq will be easier than what happened in Afghanistan.

Ah, okay, Dana’s an idiot, you might agree, but how does
arguing for moving our prisons to our tomato harvesting or his prescience on the rosy future in Iraq merit Dana as Energy Dumb? They don’t. They set the stage, however, for a brief exploration of Dana’s energy idiocies from his consistent votes against against renewable energy packages and increasing CAFE standards to his support of Newt’s Contract on the Earth driven Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay (a tiny bit) Less (a decade+ from now)!
Campaign for America’s Future took a look at energy issues and rated candidates in the 2006 cycle. Energy Dumb Dana did well: he scored zero across the board on issues related to energy independence.

About Global Warming. Dana Rohrabacher is a vehement global warming denier. Energy Dumb Dana recently showed his face on the House floor with a studied effort at willful ignorance several weeks before Senate Republicans stooped to the lowest forms of obstructionism to avoid having to have a substantive and meaningful debate about Global Warming legislation. Rohrbacher’s speech is worth notice since it is such a studied effort, with strong framing language, of misleading deceptiveness and outright deceit on what might be the most critical issue that we face through this century.

To gain a feel for the extent of deceit, let us look at part of Rohrbacher’s opening comments:

Mr. Speaker, I preface my remarks with a personal statement that, while I am opposed to the advocates of man-made global warming theories, I am committed to a clean and healthy environment, to purifying our air, our water, and our soil; all of this for the sake of the people of this planet, including my three children, Anika, Tristan and Christian. I do this not because of some paranoid theory that humans are changing the climate of the world, but instead, I am very concerned about the health of the people of the world and, thus, committed to clean air, clean soil, and clean water.

Yes, Dana Rohrbacher is concerned, concerned mightily about “a clean and healthy environment”. Of course, we should simply take him on his word for this. Should’t we? After all, he is a sitting member of Congress. Well, let us take Ronald Reagan’s words to heat: “Trust, but verify.” Okay, Mr Rohrbacher, i will trust you but will verify. The question, how to verify?

There could always be the League of Conservation Voters ratings of members of Congress. According to LCV, Dana has not scored about 17% on his votes over the past decade and only 10% in votes on issues of environmental impartance. 10 of 100? That doesn’t seem to indicated a commitment to “clean air, clean soil, and clean water.”

But, perhaps LCV is simply a bunch of left-wing Democratic Party operatives. Perhaps time to look to another organization. Why not the Republicans for Environmental Protection? That might be a little more friendly to a senior Republican member of Congress. According to REP’s rating of Congressional voting (pdf), Dana’s score? He scored a blazingly high 17 of 100 for the 2005-2007 period. An average dragged down by the 13 of 100 score for 2007.

Concerned about the environment, I think not.
Okay, while we could continue, we’ve adequately established Energy Dumb, haven’t we?

Energy Smart Debbie Cook for Congress

Debbie Cook, CA-46, has focused on sustainability issues as Mayor of Huntington Beach, California, and serves on the board of directors for the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO-USA) and Post Carbon Institute. Amid escalating oil prices, perhaps the Congress could use someone respected enough by the concerned community to be put onto ASPO-USA’s board? From Debbie’s issues page:

It is imperative to address the energy constraints in our future. Our insatiable appetite for fossil fuels is reaching a critical point in human history.

Faced with price volatility, the likelihood of supply disruptions and the physical limits of the world’s oil extraction industry, our government needs to think creatively about how we will provide services in an energy-constrained world.

We cannot predict the changes in our economies and ecosystems or even the likely responses to the peaking of world oil production, but we can begin the dialogue, raising public awareness, tackling public and private consumption, and making decisions about transportation and land use within the context of their energy implications. Just as we plan for medical emergencies, civil unrest and natural disasters, we must also plan for energy uncertainties.

When it comes to Drill Here, Drill Now, Don’t Pay Less [warning: pdf of a cover story article on Debbie vs Chicken Hawk Dana] (my perspective), Debbie said back in March, before this idiotic discussion began:

Drilling is more of the same and it’s going to more of the same result. We don’t really have a strong transition plan [to deal with Peak Oil].

In 2006, Post Carbon Cities did an interesting interview with Debbie about what local leaders can and should do. Among other things, this emphasized Debbie’s passion and commitment to figuring out how to educate people (leaders and citizens) when it comes to Peak Oil.

because you know we have a lot of people who need to learn about the subject so that they can write the correct policies in order to change the way we’ve been planning cities and doing transportation and everything that’s related to energy.

She has thought through this education process and gives quite practical advice (material which makes me think and consider).

sometimes you have to go about these things rather slowly, and you’ve got to lay the ground work first – you can’t just dump this issue on people, because it is overwhelming and it kind of can be scary, and people go into resistance if they are frightened into listening to a subject that they are not familiar with.

When asked who she found useful, she showed an expert’s eye, without partisanship driving it, with Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) and oilman (and author) Matt Simmons among her list of people to listen to and get others to listen to. She also makes a critical point about physical fact versus economic theory.

It’s an issue that has a lot of different layers and most people come ignorant on the subject, but they need to learn a little bit about the geology to understand it completely, because the economists come in and say, “Oh, we don’t need to worry about it – there’s going to be something else around the corner, and technology will take care of it,” but once people have the basic understanding of the geology and the history of exploration, then they can better see through some of the Pollyanna-type messages that some of the economists like to throw out.

Translated for economists: when there are physical limits, increased prices does not guarantee increased supply.

As for Peak Oil, in line with the very important Hirsch report, she made the following call for politicians:

I would say we shouldn’t spend anytime at all trying to figure out when the peak is going to happen – it is going to happen, and it doesn’t matter when; it is very important that we start immediate planning, because we need a 20-year head start to even make it a somewhat soft landing. So that is something elected officials, I think, can get behind, because that’s more of a positive message, but they still need to understand this is something we need to start immediately, and that there are no easy alternatives.

Peak Oil is not if, but when (and that when quite likely could be past). Hirsch said that we needed to start 20 years before peak to avoid massive problems … have we started yet?

The next question: “What is the responsibility of elected officials with respect to peak oil?”

I think their responsibility first is to understand the issue and to implement policies that will actually deal with this issue, but it’s also very important for them to educate the public, because we don’t need a spike in oil prices to panic the public, but they need to know of the possibilities because then they have an idea of how to deal with this issue.

Sadly, have we had that “spike” since then? Do we have a public in panic?

Energy Smart Debbie was right then. She is right now. And, CA-46 and the rest of the nation would be well served with Energy Smart Debbie working on these critical issues at this critical time from the floor of the House Chamber.

The Choices are Stark

We face stark choices this fall.

Do we want, as a nation, to continue to feed our fossil fuel addiction, worsening the damage, or do we want to begin the process of weaning ourselves off carbon toward a prosperous, climate-friendly future?

The voters of California’s 46th district face one of the clearest choices about their, their children’s, and our collective future. Do they want to continue to allow “blithering idiot” Dana to have his hands on reins of power or do they want to place their confidence in the thoughtful, educated, and compentent
Energy Smart Debbie?

But, to help them have the ability to make this decision, they need the information to make an informed decision. Thus, figure out whether you’re ready to put a few dollars ($xx.01) into the kitty to help Energy Smart Debbie in her campaign against Energy Dumb Dana. That is a true investment in our future.


Many on the blogosphere have begun to notice Debbie Cook since her placement on the Energy Smart list (no, don’t think that I drove it). See great interview discussions, for example, at Open Left, Calitics, and FireDogLake.


Congressional Candidate Debbie Cook (CA-46) will be at Netroots Nation. Join Debbie, Jerome a Paris, Devilstower, Energy Smart candidates Mark Begich (AK-Senate) and a surprise additional major candidate to be named, and myself for a conversation about Energizing America: Setting an Agenda for Progress Friday morning in Austin, Texas.


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