St. Martin’s Press, November 2016, 464 pages, $13.50
Book Review by Roger Lohr
During the Bernie Sanders run for president, the book “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In” provides perspectives of the progressive movement in the USA. Sanders gives us a brief biography, how his campaign for president was initiated, and an outline of his agenda to transform the country into a new America.
The book explains oligarchy, the decline of the middle class, and the rigged economy. Sanders gives lists of companies and individuals associated with who he feels are “the bad guys.” Sanders’ preference is for a single payer health coverage; affordable higher education; justice reform; immigration reform; protecting society’s most vulnerable; and he also exposes the corporate media threat.
Climate change is explained in simple terms in the book, and Sanders showcases people on both sides of the issue including climate scientist Dr. James Hansen and 1,300 scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, versus the Koch Brothers, Exxon, and associated Republican climate-change deniers.
“Our Revolution” for Climate Change
The science is clear and the majority of the American population supports addressing climate change. Energy companies have invested $2.2 billion in lobbying the politicians since 1999, and the Citizens United Supreme Court decision allowed the corporations to pour money into the political system without having to disclose how much and to whom it is given. The corporate media is supported (or owned) by companies that want to keep the status quo for their short term profits, so climate change is not often in the news. Bernie’s goal is to cut carbon pollution by 40% by 2030 and by 80% by 2050.
How Bernie Would Combat Climate Change
“Our Revolution” lays out the strategies to take on climate change. Energy efficiency would be supported with Property Assessed Clean Energy Districts (PACE) that allow a utility or community to lend residential or business money to make efficiency improvements and then add the costs of retrofit projects to the beneficiary’s energy or tax bill. Transportation (28% of emissions) efficiency would be addressed by a 65 mpg standard with incentives for purchase of affordable hybrid and electric vehicles. Infrastructure needed, such as charging stations, would be built and research of electric vehicles and advanced battery storage would be funded. Additionally, the progressives call for improvements to public transit systems.
Progressives would like to end government subsidies to the fossil fuel companies, and that represents $10 billion a year given to these companies in the form of tax breaks, direct subsidies, and lucrative lease and royalty agreements. The combined profits of Exxon/Mobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips were $93 billion in 2013 and, in the same year, these companies received $2.43 billion in tax breaks!
Sanders proposed the End Polluter Welfare Act to save American taxpayers $130 billion over the next decade and to direct such funding toward the development of a clean energy economy, but there’s no need to mention what happened to that proposal.
The Climate Protection and Justice Act of 2015 proposed taxing fossil fuel companies’ emissions at the source of production and these funds would be given to the bottom 80% of Americans to offset expected energy rate hikes. The proposal would have invested in home energy efficiency, renewable energy production, clean energy research, and climate resiliency projects in low income and minority communities. The goal of this failed legislation was to make renewable energy options more attractive and competitive as the real cost of fossil fuels was realized.
Additionally, the progressive position supports a ban on fracking in general, and mining and drilling would be banned on public lands. Also banned would be new pipelines for oil-based products and mountain-top removal coal mining.
Concurrently, the government would invest in sustainable energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal using tax incentives to encourage new, clean energy generation projects. The solar investment tax credit and production tax credit have spurred the growth rate of solar energy, which has seen a 75% decrease in costs of solar panels since 2008!
The Solar Energy Industries Association claims that five million homes use solar energy for 27 gigawatts and prior to the Trump administration it had forecasted 100 gigawatts by the end of 2020. Wind now supplies energy to about 17 million homes for 75 gigawatts, and it was forecasted to generate 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030 if it continued in similar growth.
If progressives had their way, the electric grid would be modernized and there would be major investments in battery storage. These clean energy investments would replace the funding sent to the nuclear and fossil fuel industries.
Finally, “Our Revolution” would protect low income people in the name of climate justice with jobs and support in the transition to clean energy. Bernie Sanders advocates that the U.S. take bold action and lead by example on the world stage. In the words at the end of Sanders’ book, “Democracy is not a spectator sport. The future is in your hands.”