She ignores the disproportionate health effects fossil fuel pollutants have on low-income and minority communities
Instead of repeating fossil fuel talking points and discredited research, I’d hoped Monica Crowley’s recent piece on clean energy would offer an explicit and clear call for policies to address the challenges of climate disruption. That she’d advocate for proven clean energy technologies and policies that would improve the lives of African-American and Hispanic communities.
But Ms. Crowley offers discredited research from astroturf business groups such as the National Black Chamber of Commerce and talking points from think tanks ensconced in the Koch network about clean energy and poverty.
Monica Crowley’s definition of clean energy poverty is most notable for ignoring the disproportionate health effects fossil fuel pollutants have on low-income and minority communities.
“. . . people of color are exposed to 38 percent more of the deadly chemical [nitrogen dioxide] which experts say can be a key driver of heart disease and other health problems.”
This is echoed in study after study. In fact, according to an article on Environmental Health News:
“It’s the triple whammy of race, poverty and environment converging nationwide to create communities near pollution sources where nobody else wants to live. Black leaders from the Civil Rights Movement called the phenomenon environmental racism, and beginning in the early 1980s, they documented the pattern at North Carolina’s Warren County PCBs landfill, Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley,” Tennessee’s Dickson County, Chicago’s South Side, Houston’s Sunnyside garbage dump and other places across the country.”
Fossil fuel pollution leads to higher medical bills, missed school and workdays, lost wages, and premature death. To lift families out of poverty requires a concerted effort to eliminate pollutants that have disproportionately affected the lives of the most vulnerable communities.
Ms. Crowley ignores those facts and then turns her attention to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Instead of acknowledging the wealth of evidence that the CPP would benefit families across our country, she cites debunked research from the National Black Chamber of Commerce, a minority organization that purports to represent millions of African-American businesses.
In actuality, the NBCC is a low-membership organization that receives money from fossil fuel and utility interests, while its president, Harry C. Alford, spreads misinformation about the benefits of clean energy technologies and policies.
Anti-Clean Energy Think Tanks
The article also relies on research from organizations and think tanks with known ties to the Koch network and other fossil fuel interests. These groups include AmericasPower.org, the Institute for Energy Research, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and the Cato Institute.
AmericasPower.org is “sponsored by American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity,” while the Institute for Energy Research expresses skepticism about climate disruption, advocates for “free market solutions” and has not supported any policy or law to reduce carbon emissions.
The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research has received millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests, while the Cato Institute recently compared the Obama administration’s advocacy of renewable energy to Soviet central planning.
None of these groups have a credible history of advocating for energy policies that would actually benefit working class families or families of color. Rather, they receive a great deal of support from the fossil fuel and utilities industry to work against common sense clean energy policies.
A Green Energy Future for All
Rather than coal, gas and oil, it is renewables and other green energy technologies that hold the promise of a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous future for the most vulnerable communities.
If we fail to limit the amount of carbon pollution being released into our atmosphere, all of us will face dire consequences. But it will be low-income and minority communities that will continue living in cancer clusters, drinking dirty water and breathing filthy air.
Monica Crowley lost an opportunity to talk about the multi-billion dollar fossil fuel industry’s war on clean energy policy to maintain the dirty status quo.
Evlondo Cooper is a senior fellow with Checks and Balances Project, a national watchdog blog that seeks to hold government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP comes from pro-clean energy philanthropies and donors.