We all know Thomas Edison is the man behind the light bulb. A lesser known fact: he wanted solar energy to power his invention. All the way back in 1931, Thomas Edison told no less than the likes of Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone that he hoped we’d be wise enough to use the sustainable fuel alternatives that exist:
“We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Natures inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that,” he said.
Nearly 80 years later, and not only have the great inventor’s hopes not been realized, but our elected leaders and the people profiting from the status quo seem determined to hold out until every bit of coal and oil has been burned, come hell or high water (which they very well might — in the form of forest fires and rising sea levels, of course).
Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’re well aware of the stranglehold that oil, coal and gas companies have on our nation’s energy policy. And you may also know that we as a nation have enabled this sad state by handing inordinate influence to such a filthy stinkin’ rich industry (emphasis on filthy). What may not be as obvious is how on earth you can can push back against these monsters of our own creation.
Here’s the thing: Most, if not all, Americans bristle at the broad idea that there is a privileged class in this country that has all the access and calls all the shots — and that this richer than rich elite invariably acts to protect its profit margins above all else. Yet, somehow, when it comes to such a fundamental question as how we power our society, we are quite willing to tolerate this situation.
Call me impatient, but I’m not happy with waiting another 80 years. The oil and gas industry alone spent $175 million on lobbying on climate issues in 2009 — a record for an already lobby-happy industry, and more than eight times what environmental groups spent in a bumper year for them. So it’s obvious we can’t outspend industry to, for lack of a better phrase, buy our representatives back. Already, this year, the oil and gas lobby is on pace to outdo themselves.
What we don’t have in money, we can make up for in numbers. Elected reps need our votes to win, plain and simple. All we have to do is make it clear to them that they won’t be getting our vote, so long as they’re still taking all that spoiled money.
One problem, of course, is that it’s not like your Senator is bending over backwards to let you know how much dirty energy cash he or she has rolling in. That’s where two new tools by Oil Change International enter the picture. Their sites, DirtyEnergyMoney.com and BobbingInPetroleum.org, use data from the Center for Responsive Politics to follow the money trail.
What can you do with this info? For starters, check out how much dirty money your representatives have received. If their coffers are full, let them know that they won’t earn your vote until they clear their slate. You can use this petition to tell your own representatives that you expect them to donate every single penny of oil contributions to help clean up the latest fossil fuels disaster.
If you prefer a more direct form of democracy, you can call your members of Congress, email them, mail them, or show up at their offices and tell them in person. There’s a great post on Tcktcktck.org that lists the top 10 recipients of polluter money from each party, all of whom are up for reelection in November (topping the lists would be Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), not huge surprises). Surely they’d be interested to know that their constituents are watching them (if Murkowski makes it through the day).
Photo credit: Serge Melki via Flickr