Ohio2006 Blog

News, analysis, and comments on Ohio elections.

Monday, May 22

US Sen: Brown (D) and Reid Announce Clean EDGE Plan

On Saturday I went to a press conference held by U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Avon) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in front of the Great Lakes Science Center on Cleveland's waterfront, standing at the base of the new wind turbine that is expected to provide 7% of the GLSC's electricity once it is up and running. It was one of those crisp, breezy, brilliantly sunny days we get, where the lake-chilled wind battles the sunlight's warmth for supremacy. A gaggle of reporters, camera crews, campaign aides, political activists, and at least two bloggers (Bill of Callahan's Cleveland Diary and I) milled about on the plaza waiting for the event to begin. A pair of placard-bedecked LaRouchies tried to call attention to the Great Ethanol Swindle and how Nuclear and Fusion Are Our Only Hope - sorry, I did not accept their xeroxed information packet and cannot provide details on those topics.

Brown and Reid arrived with additional speakers Rev. Lois Annich, a Presbyterian minister, and Jennifer Tucker, a graduate student in nursing, each a wife and mother whose families are adversely impacted by high gas prices. They clustered around a small sign on a stand that said "Lower Gas Prices - Secure America." The rest of us stood in a semi-circle, just far enough away to make it very difficult to hear their unamplified voices in the breeze (especially Reid, who speaks rather softly).

Sherrod Brown spoke first and explained that the purpose of the event was to unveil the Clean EDGE Initiative, the Democratic plan to lower gas prices and move America toward energy independence. "EDGE" stands for Energy Development for a Growing Economy -- not a bad acronym at all. Senate Democrats had introduced the Clean Edge Act of 2006 a few days before. The plan combines immediate actions and long-term responses to the gas price crisis. In the short term, motorists would get a "gas tax vacation," suspending the 18.4 cents-per-gallon federal tax on gasoline (24 cents on diesel) for 60 days, paid for by repealing the obscenely huge subsidies for oil companies instituted by the GOP; the Federal Trade Commission would get the authority to fine big oil companies for gas gouging; and to make that authority more effective the FTC would also get immediate access to oil company books and records. Long term, the plan would build a regional reserve system to stabilize prices; increase investment in bio-fuels (like ethanol) and the facilities for distributing it (25% of new vehicles must be flex-fuel capable by 2010, 50% by 2020, and a goal would be set of selling alternative fuel at 10% of gas stations by 2015); and invest in hybrid and fuel cell development. The overall goal is to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by 6 million barrels per day (40% of what we import) by 2020, with the federal government leading the way by reducing its own oil consumption. Brown emphasized the hardship of high gas prices on Ohio families, and said "it is time for Congress to stand up to oil companies and on the side of middle class families." He also stressed the role that Ohio could play in the development and production of alternative fuel technologies, which would bring jobs back to the state, and warned that we can expect no improvement in gas prices and foreign oil dependency from a Congress and a President whose campaigns are funded by big contributions from oil companies. Brown's opponent, Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Cedarville), has received more than $330,000 in campaign contributions from oil companies over his political career.

Harry Reid started by saying that he has had many good and bad days in Washington DC, but "no day was better than when Sherrod Brown announced he would run for the Senate." Then he said that the wind turbine behind them "represents the future of Ohio just like LeBron James represents the future of baskeball," which was a big applause line. He pointed out that America consumes 21 million barrels of oil every day, 60% of it imported, and "we cannot produce our way out of this crisis" because only 3% of world oil reserves are in the United States. "Benjamin Franklin wrote that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over hoping that something will change," he continued, and "this is what the Republicans do -- drill, drill, drill." America needs to be weaned off foreign oil, and alternative fuel technology is the way to do it. He talked about the importance of requiring service stations to sell ethanol and other alternative fuels, and the federal government must "set an example" by reducing its own gasoline consumption. He also said that he had just left New Orleans (Reid is on a speaking tour of red states), and that "most people gloss over the reason" why the terrible hurricane destruction there occurred. "Global warming is here," he said, and storms like Katrina "are not an accident." We "have at our fingertips" the technology to stop using so much oil, but "until we try something different, we will keep doing the same thing."

Rev. Annich, who is a counselor as well as a minister, followed by talking about how "good, decent, hard-working people are feeling the stress of high gas prices." She invoked the "tradition in scripture" of fighting for social justice, and said that record oil company profits from soaring prices "is a social injustice of the highest order." Jennifer Tucker talked about how she commutes from Medina to Case Western Reserve University and downtown hospitals for her graduate program, and her husband commutes to Mayfield Heights for his job, with the result that they spend between $300 and $500 per month on gasoline, financed through student loans.

During the Q and A, Reid was asked about the Democrats' plans for when they have control of Congress. If the election were held today, he said, the Democrats would take control of the Senate. Rather than talk about "what" Democrats stand for, however, he said he wanted to talk about "who" Democrats stand for, such as the 46 million Americans without health insurance, the many more who are underinsured, and the victims of cuts to veterans benefits and student loan programs. "When we take over Congress, we aren't going to spend all our time on investigations," he said, "we are going to pass legislation." Bush hasn't vetoed a single law in five years "because he hasn't had to -- there has been no functioning third branch of government." Asked about Democratic plans for investment in mass transit, Reid really warmed to the topic. He lamented that the U.S. has not invested in train facilities and talked about taking a hard look at high speed rail technologies like magnetic rail.

The press kit for the event included additional information about the scope of the gas crisis and how Republicans are "addicted to oil company cash." Since 1997, the Senate Judiciary Committee's subcommittee in charge of overseeing mergers, chaired by DeWine, has held just one hearing to examine high gas prices, and it was two years ago. Oil companies have contributed $73 million to Bush and the Republican Congress since 2000, with Bush receiving $2.6 million in 2004. DeWine voted with the Republican majority for $10 billion in targeted tax breaks to oil and gas companies, which Brown opposed.

The gas crisis and reducing energy dependence is a great issue for Democratic candidates, and putting forward a concrete plan for dealing with it is a big boost for their campaigns. Brown is hitting the link between DeWine and oil company contibutions hard. As pointed out in the press kit, DeWine is # 13 on the list of Senate recipients of oil company contributions so far this election cycle (all 13 are Republicans; DeWine has so far received $34,150). With industry observers predicting that gas prices could continue to rise (possibly as high as $5.00 per gallon), this issue will get much more traction as the campaign goes along.

UPDATE: Video of the event, hosted on YouTube, is here. Listening to the audio, I realize just how much of the remarks I couldn't hear in person due to the breeze. Go check it out to get the full story!

6 Comments:

At 6:26 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Great recap. Now, what do you think of their presentation - substantively and aesthetically?

 
At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AND HOW MUCH GAS DID YOU AND EVERYONE BURN UP GOING TO THE PRESS CONFERENCE??? -- TYPICAL DEMOCRAT HYPOCRASY or "HYPO-CRATS"!!!

 
At 11:39 AM, Blogger Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Oh, puh-LEEZ, Jill! A recap was all I was shooting for. Sheesh!

*Sigh!* Okay, okay. Substantively, I think the ideas in the plan are good in general, but there are other ideas that I think should be included. What about tightening MPG standards? What about raising the gasoline tax, at least gradually, to discourage the use of gas-guzzling cars? (Yes, I know, immediate relief for consumers now is good, but ratcheting up the taxes gradually is a necesary incentive to nudge people in the direction of conservation and alternaitve fuels.)

Aesthetically, it was a bust. There were very few if any members of the general public, and it was extremely difficult to hear what the speakers were saying. If I hadn't finagled a copy of the press kit, I probably would not have bothered blogging about this, because my notes were just scattered fragments - that's all I could hear.

But, then again, it was not a public rally, it was press conference! (At least I THINK that was the intent.) It was for the cameras and reporters, so it worked on that level.

Beautiful day, though. And I had a nice chat with Connie Schultz afterward.

 
At 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, anonymous, how do you know that everyone there didn't talk public transportation---troll!

I couldn't make it because something I was doing in the morning ended up running over. It doesn't sound like I missed much. I think they've got some good ideas, but this country needs a firm commitment to a long-term plan, which is why Bush looked so lightweight with his $100 handout proposal.

I don't agree with either a tax "vacation" or raising the gas taxes. I think the former is beside the point and I think the latter will just crush working class people even more unless they are offered a real alternative, including fuel efficient cars that are cost-competitive with regular economy cars and a phase-in long enough (probably ten years at least) so people could purchase those cars when they come to the end of their current cars' life, not expecting them to be able financally to do so now.

And I hope you told Connie to get her butt out of this campaign and go sell more books instead. Nothing against Connie but I just don't see her helping Brown's cause on the campaign trail. Educated, middle-aged women who wouldn't dream of voting for anyone but Brown love her, but i think the focus on her in the campaign has and is going to be negative.

 
At 5:34 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Thanks for obliging me. :) But I can see why you might have been reticent. Your post's description leaves a very positive feeling. Your personal reflections, less so.

 
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