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  January/February 2003 Features:
'Aren't We the Lucky Ones?'
Becoming a Player
The Energy Bill that Wasn't
Unmasking Pretenders
We Know How
We the People
Higmans Awarded for Outstanding Philanthropy
Ten Reasons Things Aren't as Bad as They Seem
 
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The Planet
Ten Reasons Things Aren't as Bad as They Seem

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1. Americans support environmental values. By a two-to-one margin, a New York Times/CBS News poll (November 29, 2002) found that Americans say that protecting the environment is more important than producing energy.

2. Campaign finance reform kicked in on November 6. When the polls closed at midnight on November 5, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, which will prevent polluting industries from dumping unlimited "soft money" into electoral campaigns, went into effect. The law, which passed in March, is a critical first step toward giving power back to voters.

3. Demand for hybrid cars soars. Toyota has already sold more than 100,000 Priuses, and a recent auto industry survey found that 60 percent of consumers were considering hybrids for their next car.

4. Wind energy is becoming economically competitive with coal. According to Stanford University energy experts Mark Z. Jacobson and Gilbert M. Masters (Science, August 24, 2001), "The direct cost of energy from large wind turbines has dropped to 3 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, comparable with that from new pulverized-coal power plants. Given that health and environmental costs of coal are another 2 to 4.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, wind energy is unequivocally less expensive than is coal energy."

5. BP backs off from Arctic. In November, the largest oil producer in Alaska, BP, withdrew from Arctic Power, a lobbying group dedicated to oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

6. 'Loathsome' energy bill dies in committee. The House bill included drilling in the Arctic and billions in tax breaks to the fossil fuel industries. The Senate bill spared the Arctic and promised fewer tax breaks, but was still a huge step backward. Any marriage of these bills would have increased pollution and the nation's dependence on oil.

7. The last time anti-environmental Republicans took over Congress, they squandered their 'mandate.' House Speaker Newt Gingrich launched his ambitious "Contract With America" in early 1995, which would have dismantled decades' worth of environmental protection. By the end of the year, his campaign had sputtered and only a fraction of it became law.

8. The Kyoto Protocol is on the verge of ratification. In December, Canada and New Zealand signed the Kyoto Protocol, bringing the total to 98 countries, contributing 40.7 percent of greenhouse emissions. The Kyoto Protocol becomes law when a minimum of 55 countries covering at least 55 percent of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions have ratified it. Despite the U.S refusal to sign it, it will take effect when Russia, which has promised to ratify, signs it in 2003.

9. The Sierra Club is strong. PRWeek named the Sierra Club "the most powerful and influential solutions-based nonprofit environmental organization in the country." With more than 700,000 members in 66 chapters and 355 groups and a $70 million budget, the Sierra Club is solvent, stable, and ready to climb into the ring for the next round.

10. The Sierra Club is attracting young people. The Sierra Student Coalition has more than 20,000 members and is active on more than 100 campuses. The SSC's organizing training programs have trained hundreds of high school and college students in activism, many of whom have become volunteer leaders of the Club.

- John Byrne Barry


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