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Amanda Little's Posts

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John Kerry on why we need fossil fuels (for now) and climate action (for real!)

John Kerry, climate hawk and potential future secretary of state. (Photo by Shutterstock.)

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who could become the next secretary of state if President Obama wins reelection, sees climate change as a serious threat to national security: It's "as dangerous as" the possibility of a nuclear Iran or the situation in Syria, he said on the Senate floor in August.

And in his speech at the Democratic convention this month, Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "an exceptional country does care about the rise of the oceans and the future of the planet" -- rebutting Mitt Romney's snide comment about climate change.

Still, though Kerry is the Senate's strongest advocate for climate action, he's realistic about the fact that America is still reliant on fossil fuels.

We spoke to Kerry about Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy, prospects for national and international climate progress, and Romney's record on clean energy in Massachusetts.

Q. The climate issue is barely registering in this election. Why has this issue fallen off the Democratic agenda?

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Michigan’s Jennifer Granholm plugs fuel economy, Chevy Volt

Jennifer GranholmFormer Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has been one of the most outspoken advocates of the Obama administration's auto-industry rescue. In a speech about the bailout at the Democratic convention earlier this month, she was so animated that Jon Stewart said she looked “like a drunk flight attendant” who shouldn't be operating any kind of motorized vehicle. But the roaring crowd wanted more of whatever she was drinking.

We talked to Granholm -- who now hosts Current TV's political talk show The War Room and teaches at U.C.–Berkeley -- about how new fuel-economy standards are also driving Detroit's comeback.

Q. Obama’s decision to save Detroit is a hot-button issue in this election and a centerpiece of Obama’s reelection campaign. Why are cars so important to voters?

A. The auto industry is the backbone of the manufacturing industry. When the president stepped up and said it’s important for America to save this industry, it meant that we were gonna have a commitment to saving middle-class jobs in America. People want to see a government that is going to create and keep middle-class jobs, particularly at a time when we’ve seen so many manufacturing jobs exported to low-wage countries. President Bush had no manufacturing policy. So I think Obama’s decision to save Detroit really resonated with Americans.

Q. What role have stronger fuel-economy standards played in Detroit’s resurgence?

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L.A.’s Villaraigosa, self-proclaimed ‘greenest mayor’ in America, talks election, climate, and bikes

Antonio VillaraigosaThe mayor. (Photo by Shutterstock.)

You recently saw L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa grinning, hugging, back-patting, and fist-pumping between acts in his role as chair of the Democratic National Convention. Villaraigosa, who was a labor organizer and then speaker of the state Assembly before he became mayor in 2005, also wants recognition for another leadership role: He calls himself America’s greenest mayor, and he calls his city the cleantech capitol of the U.S.

We spoke to Villaraigosa about the impact of the convention, his efforts to make his city-state a model of climate progress, and his progress in dragging Angelenos out of their cars.

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What Obama would do on climate in a second term: Carol Browner explains

Carol Browner. (Photo by Reuters / Jonathan Ernst.)

Carol Browner, President Obama’s former “energy czar,” was at the Democratic convention last week acting as a surrogate for the Obama campaign. She served as EPA administrator during the Clinton administration, and is now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Browner chatted with Grist about Obama’s first-term track record, prospects for climate action over the next two years, and what we should be doing about fracking.

Q. The climate issue was barely addressed at the Democratic convention and seems to have fallen off the Democratic agenda in the 2012 election. Why?

A. For a lot of undecided voters, the issue is economy and jobs. But the president did talk about climate and he’s very confident on this topic -- he has done a lot on the issue. Look at his record: He’s been delivering on real, measurable greenhouse gas reductions from cars, power plants, buildings, and beyond.

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Behind the scenes at the Democratic convention

Scarlett Johansson addresses the final session of the Democratic National Convention. Photo by Reuters / Jason Reed.ScarJo is fired up and ready to go. (Photo by Reuters / Jason Reed.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the hours before President Obama took the stage, there was so much warmth and excitement in the greenroom, where speakers gathered in between presentations, that it felt like a barely contained fire.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer swaggered in with his jeans and bolo tie, released a small roar of excitement, and said to nobody in particular, “Hoo wee! What a great day for America! I am charged. So charged!"

Suits snapped photos with Mary J. Blige, who sparkled so brilliantly in her mini-dress and bling that you might have wondered if she was plugged into a socket.

Scarlett Johansson was all a-dimple as she chatted with fellow speakers, saying, “You were just awesome!” and “It’s crazy out there -- America is so fired up!”

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Ed Markey, coauthor of big cap-and-trade bill, now lauds Obama’s ‘drill baby drill’ approach

Ed MarkeyClimate hawk Ed Markey defends Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy. (Photo by Martha Coakley.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is more passionate about climate action than almost anyone else in Congress. He cosponsored the Democrats' embattled cap-and-trade legislation in 2009, the so-called Waxman-Markey bill. He was the first and only chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming up until Republicans took control of the House after the 2010 election. And he hasn't let up since losing his chairmanship; he's continued his tenacious fight for clean energy and against fossil fuels.

So it was disorienting to hear him wax enthusiastic about Obama's pro-drilling policies on Wednesday:

Let me say this because I think it’s important: When George Bush left office in January 2009, we as a country were 57 percent dependent on imported oil. Today we are 45 percent dependent on imported oil. That’s Obama drill, baby, drill! Why do I say that? We are at an 18-year high for oil production in the U.S.! Let me say that again: We are at an 18-year high for oil production in the U.S. right now! And we are at an 18-year low with greenhouse gas emissions [thanks to Obama’s push for] natural gas, wind, solar, and new vehicle standards.

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Climate and energy get no love on day one of Democratic convention

Democratic National Convention on first night(Photo by Chris Keane / Reuters.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There was a lot of energy at the Democratic convention Tuesday night -- just not the kind you can power a house or a car with.

Michelle Obama, Julián Castro, Deval Patrick, and other headliners on the convention's opening night had the audience and the pundits swooning. But none of the major speakers made even a passing reference to climate change or other green issues. The one prime-time speaker who mentioned environmental protection was Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a one-time Republican gone rogue.

I hit up some delegates for their insights on the omission, starting with a Houstonian next to me in the nosebleed section of the Time Warner Cable Arena. Had she heard any commentary on climate and energy? Had I missed something? She looked at me blankly. “No,” she said. “I think that’s scheduled for another night.”

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Huntsman on climate change, natural gas, and competing with China

Jon Huntsman. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

For a while there, Jon Huntsman was the one Republican presidential candidate willing to deliver the straight dope on climate change. “To be clear,” he tweeted in August, “I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” He even argued that climate skepticism could cost the GOP a victory in November: “The minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.” Enviros praised Huntsman as the heroically rogue elephant.

Then he joined the herd.

In December, Huntsman told an audience at the Heritage Foundation that the "scientific community owes us more in terms of a better description or explanation” of climate change, and that there is “not enough info right now to be able to formulate policies.”

Since withdrawing from the GOP primary in mid-January and endorsing Mitt Romney, Huntsman has stayed visible in the media, challenging Romney’s position on trade with China and suggesting that the country might need a third party with “an alternative vision, a bold thinking.”

But has he come to any more clarity on his climate views? We called him up to find out.

Read more: Election 2012, Politics

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Sen. Lamar Alexander on making bipartisan energy progress

Sen. Lamar Alexander.Photo: Office of Lamar AlexanderSen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) is a patient politician. At age 38, he walked a thousand miles around the state of Tennessee to win support, door to door, for his successful campaign to become the state's governor. Now, at 71, Alexander is facing another grueling slog: building political consensus around issues like energy and climate change at a time of seemingly intractable congressional gridlock. The senator recently announced plans to forfeit his role as Republican Conference chair, the No. 3 leadership position in the Senate, so he'll be free to reach across the aisle and …

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Dudefest no more? Women are infiltrating cleantech

Check out our list of the top 12 women in cleantech.Clean energy is one of the most dynamic sectors in the world -- hot start-ups, technological whizbangery, cutthroat competition, billions in venture-capital investments, a race against the climate clock.  But there's one aspect of the clean-energy field that's just as sclerotic as the world of fossil fuels: patriarchy. Men invented, engineered, invested in, and presided over the technologies and companies that made oil, coal, and natural gas the dominant fuels of our time. And now men are running the show at most of the firms pushing renewables, efficiency, clean cars, …