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Friday, November 23, 2007

Billy Parish Tells Congress "This Young Generation is Ready to Carry Out a Historic Power Shift"

The following is the testimony delivered by Energy Action Coalition co-founder and coordinator, Billy Parish before the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence during Power Shift 2007 Lobby Day, November 5th, 2007.

It's taken me too long to get this posted, but it's well worth watching/reading. (The sound is not in synch with the video unfortunately, but here it is nonetheless. The full text is below the fold).

For those who were there, let us remember that we have delivered a loud and clear message to our leaders on Congress. For those who missed Billy's inspiring testimony, read on or listen to/watch the video. Let us all keep our call for "Green Jobs", "80% by '50" and "No New Coal" as loud and clear as it was on the 5th of November. Thanks Billy for this testimony and for all you've done:

Thank you, Chairman Markey, for inviting us here today. I want to also thank you and Speaker Pelosi for addressing Power Shift on Saturday night, and for your leadership over the past 30 years on these critical issues. I want to finally recognize the thousands of young people today standing shoulder to shoulder for the largest climate lobby day in U.S. history.

Remember, remember, the 5th of November. An unstoppable movement has taken root in every school and every community in this nation. A generation has come to Washington today to lead, to be heard, and to find allies in this Congress who are ready to do what is necessary to solve our climate crisis.

My name is Billy Parish, and I'm the coordinator of the Energy Action Coalition, a diverse alliance of 46 organizations working to support and strengthen the student and youth clean energy movement in the U.S. and Canada to create change for a clean, efficient, just and renewable energy future. I have brought with me our coalition's "Youth Statement of Principles on Climate and Energy" and other supporting documents for the Congressional record.

We come here today with three demands for Congress:

1. Create 5 million new jobs through a Clean Energy Corps to weatherize, solarize, rewire and rebuild this country. Let’s put people to work, and create green pathways out of poverty. Green Jobs Now! Green Jobs Now! Green Jobs Now!

2. Cut Carbon at least 80% by 2050, 30% by 2020 and auction 100% of the pollution allowances from day 1. Science tells us we can aim for nothing less. 80 by 50! 80 by 50! 80 by 50!

3. Pass an immediate moratorium on the construction of new coal plants. We should shift all federal subsidies from fossil fuels and nuclear to wind and solar, and create a just transition for workers from the old economy into the new green economy. No Coal! No Coal! No Coal!

We will be heard because at 50 million strong, the Millennial generation outnumbers even the Baby Boomers by 3 million and represents the single-largest demographic age group in this country. Polling data, recent voter turnout, and the swelling ranks and increasing coordination of the youth climate movement all demonstrate that this young generation is engaged and ready to carry out a historic Power Shift. Youth turnout in the past two elections hit the highest level in at least 20 years, and is only on the rise.

We are not alone: youth are assembling coalitions that are bringing together a diverse and powerful set of allies including unions, businesses, people of faith, farmers, civil rights groups and millions more. And we are not just here in D.C., we are in every Congressional district in America - and we are organizing.

Politicians would be wise to take note. Exactly one year from today, we will have a new Congress and a new President. You have one year to prove that you are worthy of being our “representatives” in this government – and if you don’t, you will need to look for a new job, as millions of young voters throw their support behind more progressive, pro-environment candidates committed to ending the climate crisis and protecting the future of our generation.

We will be heard because we are the ones we've been waiting for.

As the Bush Administration and our federal government has done almost nothing for the last seven years, young people have organized and made change. Through the Campus Climate Challenge, tens of thousands of young people have engaged in the hard work of making their schools models of sustainability for the rest of society. In just the last year, 426 colleges have committed to becoming climate neutral, and more sign on every day.

We are building partnerships with community groups to block the construction of new coal-fired power plants and launch a green wave of urban and rural renewal. As our government abandoned the people of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of young people dropped everything to serve and rebuild. Over 6,000 of us came to Power Shift this weekend, thousands more took part in Step it Up around the country - a generation of solutions, but we know we cannot do it alone and have come to seek your help.

And we will be heard because we are, quite literally, fighting for our lives.

This can no longer be a political issue – for the survival of our people and our planet, we must put aside partisan politics and come together as humans, as mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, to heal ourselves and our planet.

This is no small task.

As Evon Peter told us on Saturday night, this is not only an ecological and economic crisis, it is a spiritual and cultural crisis that is centuries old. We must begin the long process of reconciliation with the original peoples of this land, with the people that were brought here against their will, especially those from Africa, and all the people that are poorly served by our society. We cannot sacrifice communities for our overconsumption today, not only because it is wrong for those communities today but because we will be sacrificing the basis of life for our children and future generations.

I'm 26 years old and about to become a father. I implore the members of this 110th Congress to hear our demands – but I ask that you hear them not only as politicians, but also as mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. We can do this if we work together, but we must begin today.

1. Green Jobs Now! Green Jobs Now! Green Jobs Now!

2. 80 by 50! 80 by 50! 80 by 50!

3. No Coal! No Coal! No Coal!

Thank you.

Other inspiring testimony from the Select Committee Hearing on Nov. 5th can be found online at The Gavel here.


Unknown said...

I enjoy reading your blog, though I totally disagree with you. You guys are great at telling us what not to do, but what are your solutions? Teddy wont let wind be put up in his view? Some advancements have been made in the area of solar energy, but it has a long way to go.

You guys hate coal, oil, etc, but I never hear any solutions. So you guys have scared the pants off of a lot of people, but you guys have yet to propose a concrete solution. What energy sources do you propose we should adopt?

WattHead said...


First off, remember the First Rule of Holes: when you are in one, stop digging!

Saying No! to new coal (and other major infrastructure investments that make the problem worse) is a critical step. If we don't take a strong stand against new coal plants, we'll be backsliding while we make progress on the leading edge.

Second: Short answer to your "what do we want?" question: efficiency and conservation first (always), then renewables, renewables and more renewables. So what if Teddy doesn't want his view spoiled by wind power? Our futures are at stake, so pardon my frankness, but F Teddy Kennedy and his mansion's view!

No doubt you'll say "well renewables are great, but they can't go far enough." Three responses to that (if that's what you're thinking):

a) We can be a heck of a lot more efficient in our energy use without losing our standard of living. Fuel economy standards for vehicles can easily be doubled, and plug-in hybrids could cut our transportation energy demand by 2/3rds easily. If every state in the nation brought their energy efficiency standards in line with California's, we'd have no need for new power plants for decades. Did you know that many states have no building or efficiency codes at all?! Once we tap the full potential of efficiency, the problem becomes a lot smaller.

b) We're far from tapping the full potential of existing renewable energy technologies as well, including current wind, solar and geothermal technologies. So lets get their full potential developed as soon as possible and then we can start talking about the limits of renewables. We've got the tools we need right now to get started and there's no time to waste.

c) Sure current technologies have limits, but do you think there are really limitations to American innovation? Lets start pumping major public investments into researching, developing and deploying new clean energy technologies, creating a new clean-tech economic boom and developing the break through technologies that will completely sever our dependence on dirty and depleting fossil fuels.

If you want to know what we want, please read the text of a speech I delivered recently outlining my vision of the world I want to live in. Do you disagree with any of that vision?

How do we get to this Sustainable, Just, and Prosperous Future? The principles of the Cascade Climate Declaration should guide our transition pretty well.