Last week, we documented the very real gains the US economy had made under President Obama. This week we look at the progress made in the important renewable energy sector.
At NDN, we’ve long argued that the goal of US energy policy should be to create a cheaper, more distributed and cleaner energy future for our companies and consumers. The President has pursued an “all of the above” energy strategy, which has increased domestic production of oil and gas, seen tremendous advances in renewable deployment, regulated pollution that harms the climate and environment, and improved efficiency to conserve more energy. This strategy has seen significant dividends already as America’s domestic oil and gas production is booming, global energy prices have plummeted, the deployment of renewables in the US has skyrocketed.
Let’s take a deeper dive into renewable energy:
• Solar installation has surged as prices have plummeted. In fact, annual solar installations have increased by ten-fold since President Obama took office in 2009.
• All the while, the price it costs to install the system has fallen by nearly 63% in the same time frame.
• The Solar Industry has grown from about 93,500 jobs in 2010 to over 174,000 in 2014 – an increase of about 86% overall. It grew at about twenty times greater than the overall economy in the past four years.
• Prior to the 2008, the Wind Energy Industry was small and was projected to have sluggish growth through 2030. In the late 2000’s, Wind power's deployment accelerated, reaching 50 GW in 2012—about 18 years ahead of the projected schedule. Installations of wind power capacity tripled from 2008 – 2012 almost tripled.
• Today, Wind powers about 18 million homes in the U.S. and is the largest form of renewable energy (besides hydropower) and an emerging industry.
Further Investments in Clean Energy • The President’s first major bill (the “stimulus package”) included $90 billion to fund clean energy projects, such as battery programs, further research in alternative sources of energy, and tax credits. It also led to a further leveraging of $100 billion in private dollars to invest in clean energy. The program that led to investments in high-profile cases like Solyndra, could eventually result in over $5 billion dollar surplus to the federal government, on-top of creating a strong environment
• In the second term, the President pledged to have 20% of the federal government run off of renewable energy by 2020. The Administration has also made increasing renewable energy a goal under the Environmental Protection Agency’s carbon regulations; renewable energy is one of the options offered under the Climate Action Plan for states to invest in as a way to reach carbon cutting goals. The U.S. Military is out in front, aiming to have 25% of its power come from renewable energy by 2025.
In total, the growth of renewable energy over the past six years is quite impressive. Renewable energy sources now power over 12.9% of electricity production in the United States—an increase of more than 50% since 2008. Solar and Wind are outperforming other types of renewable energy, growing each year by leaps and bounds. Clean energy is no longer a far-off pipedream, but an increasingly vibrant and real piece of the U.S. energy economy.
• Solar chart is from a recent article by Jonathan Chait, “History Will Be Very Kind” to President Obama.
• Wind chart is from the 2013 AWEA 4th Quarter Market Report.
• Michael Grunwald of Politico is a great resource for his work on reporting on the clean energy revolution, particularly his book the “New New Deal.”
•* includes hydropower
It is important to note that the emerging House GOP immigration strategy is deeply consistent with their approach from the 113th Congress. In both 2013 and 2014, in what was their only substantive response to the bi-partisan Senate immigration bill, the House GOP passed laws overriding the use of prosecutorial discretion mandated in the “Morton Memos.” Prosecutorial discretion has been the basis of a series of sweeping improvements in the immigration system advanced by the Obama Administration since 2010, including DACA in 2012 and the 2014 Executive Actions (DAPA).
The objective of this GOP strategy is remove the ability of DHS to prioritize (and de-prioritize) the deportation of those apprehended by the immigration justice system. In their view removing this common every day law enforcement practice from a massive law enforcement system, as Greg Sargent reports in this recent piece, would allow DHS to re-establish the threat of imminent deportation over the entire undocumented population (which began to be removed through the 2010 Morton strategy). The only reason to do that is if the longer term objective was to block all efforts at legalization and force the remaining 11m to leave through “self-deportation.” The only reason to fight common sense provisions to prioritize the deportation of felons over law-abiding, tax-paying moms is if you believe that the fear of imminent deportation is an essential tool of immigration policy – and the only reason it would be would if the goal was not eventual legalization but removal/self-deportation. Focusing so much energy on deportation prioritization only makes sense if you believe there will be millions to deport.
All Republicans supporting this initiative need to be asked directly about their vision for the 11m already here. By supporting this legislation, it is clear their goal is for them to leave, not stay. Early media appearances by GOP supporters of this bill have seen Republicans being less than honest about the longer term goal, evading the question by suggesting that border security needs to come first and not answering the question. Journalists should not let them off the hook for the decision of go/stay is the most important question in the immigration debate today and folks should be clear about where they stand on this.
On a related note, the current GOP arguments about the border itself are a bit ridiculous. In recent years, due to greater cooperation with Mexico, additional resources on the border, and the deterrent effect the post-Morton strategy of far greater pursuit of illegal entrants/border crossers has brought, the net flow of undocumented immigrations into the US has gone from 400,000 a year under Bush to zero under Obama; and crime along the US side of the border itself has plummeted. The government has made significant strides in border security in recent years, in part due to the Morton prioritization of border crossers/illegal entrants for deportation. Unraveling Morton would actually be a setback for border security not an advance.
The success of the President’s border strategy can not only be measured in the very real gains we’ve seen in security, but in during this period of progress in security we have also seen an explosion of trade and tourism across our southern border. US-Mexico trade will clock in over $600b in goods and services in 2014, almost DOUBLE what it was in the first year of the Obama Administration. Mexico is now the US’s second largest market for our exports. That we have both dramatically increased border security while overseeing a huge increase in legal tourism and trade with Mexico will go down as one of the more significant policy successes of the Obama era.
A new report released earlier today from ICE, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operation Reports FY 2014, contains another year of data showing how Obama era policies have made our immigration system better and border safer.
As background, the undocumented immigrant population in the United States swelled from 3m in the early 1990s to 12m by 2007. After 9/11, and accelerating in the middle part of the last decade, there became a bi-partisan effort to both stop the flow of unauthorized migrants and reform a domestic immigration system badly out of date and inadequately equipped to deal with a undocumented immigrant population of this size. After legislative efforts to reform the system failed for the 3rd time in 2010, DHS pragmatically initiated a series of reforms designed to help the immigration enforcement/justice system cope with a population far beyond what is funded and equipped to deal with. Known as the Morton Memos, these reforms among other things directed the immigration enforcement/judicial system to prioritize two types of unauthorized immigrants for deportation from this vast pool of more than 10 million – those caught entering the country without authorization, and those apprehended in the interior with criminal records.
As the charts and graphs below show, these reforms brought swift and significant reform to the system. The prioritization of border removals has helped keep the net flow of undocumented immigrants to zero after 15 years of gains of on average 500,000 or more, while also helping bring the crime rate down along the US side of the US-Mexico border. In the interior, prioritizing felons not families, the system has become far more focused on removing criminals and leaving law abiding, tax-paying families alone. These reforms have neither “ratcheted up” nor weakened enforcement. They have made our enforcement system smarter, more effective and better. And, as we learned this spring and summer, the many years of investment in capacity building and far better use of limited resources enabled the US government to successfully manage an extraordinary crisis when it hit our border.
The success of the changes begun by DHS in 2010 laid the groundwork for the Executive Actions the President took a few weeks ago. As the President said, his answer for what to do about our broken immigration system was to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform. But after nine years of trying that path and being blocked, the President simply had to act. The immigration system we have today was never designed or built to handle an unauthorized population of more than 10m people, many long settled and with deep family ties to the community. By even further refining the enforcement priorities to the border and serious criminals in the interior, the Executive Actions will maintain our successful border policies, make it far easier to remove true criminal threats from the interior rapidly, unclog our badly clogged and unjust immigration judicial system, while freeing up law abiding immigrant with deep family ties to make even greater economic contributions to their country.
Reviewing this new ICE data it is clear that the reforms made by DHS a few years ago were smart and effective. Our immigration system is better and our border safer. The recent Executive Actions built on these reforms, and will in the coming years, even without Congressional action, make our nation safer and our immigration system far better and more humane.
For a much deeper dive on these issues, be sure to read our recent report: “NDN/NPI Report on Central American Migrants and President Obama’s Immigration/Border Enforcement Record.”
The Obama Administration’s historic policy changes towards Cuba will be good for the US, the Cuban people and for the hemisphere.
For the Cuban government, this rapprochement is an acknowledgement of their own need to change and open up to their long standing enemy and to the rest of the world. The change inside Cuba that got us to this point was a far more difficult journey than what our nation has and will have continue to travel. In addition to the prisoner exchanges today, Cuba announced that it would release political prisoners, open up to more international institutions, give its citizens greater access to the Internet and allow higher levels of travel and remittances to the country. While our own President took a courageous step today, the steps taken by the Cuban regime were far greater and more significant, amounting to a renunciation of the central organizing principle of their state which has guided them for over fifty years. They are in essence throwing in the towel. This was no easy thing particularly for a leader named Castro.
For the United States, rapprochement with Cuba, along with our recent steps to reform our immigration system, will allow far greater American engagement in the Americas. As our own population today is more than 15% of Latin American descent, and expected to climb to more than 30% in decades to come, further political and economic integration with Latin America is a natural evolution of who America is becoming. These recent steps by President Obama can usher in a new and far more constructive period of hemispheric relations, something that is not just good for economically and geopolitically, but will be demanded by our growing domestic Hispanic population.
It is a bit hard to understand the defense of the status quo by many Republicans. Current policy clearly hasn’t worked, while harming American interests in the region. The new path is resorting to a patient strategy of economic and political engagement that has been the bi-partisan strategic cornerstone of US foreign policy since the end of WWII. So this is no radical path.
Current Cuba policy has also been a political failure for the Republican Party. The Cuban American community in Florida has gone from being an overwhelmingly Republican voting block to one which is now marginally Democratic. This shift has also helped make Democrat a “lean blue” state at the Presidential level. Given that neither the policy nor the politics of the current Cuba policy has worked, it is just hard to see why so many Republicans are defending it.
At NDN, we have worked alongside many other leaders and organizations to bring about these historic changes. In 2004, we ran the first ever Spanish language campaign in Miami challenging the Republicans on their failed Cuba policy. We helped develop the policy the Obama Administration adopted in 2009 which relaxed some restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba for Cuban Americans. This policy of letting Cuban Americans take the lead in establishing better ties has helped create the political space in Florida allowing these new more ambitious steps. And of course, our good friend and former NDN, Joe Garcia was elected to Congress as a Cuban Democrat in 2012. While Joe lost in November, he is even a more powerful voice for change than ever before.
Taking bold steps so clearly in the national interest of the United States is what we expect from our Presidents. We thank you for your courage and vision, for giving the people of Cuba and the region a chance to chart a better course. And to our members how have partnered and funded our work that has helped bring about these critical changes we say thank you. We have done a lot of good here, together.
In 2004, Simon, Joe Garcia, Sergio Bendixen, Maria Cardona and others ran an extensive Spanish language television campaign in Miami challenging the Republicans to stop playing politics with Cuba. Here are the ads (the English version never aired, just for reference)
We are incredibly proud of the work we’ve done for over a decade now to bring a better day for the Cuban people and US relations with the rest of Latin America. But we are even more proud of our President who took such a bold, historic step forward today. Thank you Mr. President.
Today, I am excited to release the latest installment in our “Renewing Our Democracy” series. This new analysis takes a look at whether due to how few Americans are able to cast a meaningful vote in a Federal elections our electoral system is still capable of conveying the “consent of the governed” to those in power in Washington. This analysis is an early stage, and we welcome and encourage feedback and critiques. The document is available at the bottom of the page to download in pdf form.
Over our many years of work, NDN and its extended family have been at the forefront of a national conversation about how to best improve our democracy itself. While at the DNC in 1993, I put the first American political party on the Internet. We were early champions and supporters of Oregon’s innovative Vote By Mail program which has produced some of the highest voter turnout figures in the nation. We have promoted same day registration, early voting, and eliminating the Electoral College as ways of encouraging broader participation. We were early proponents of “internet based campaigning,” understanding that a digital age politics would make it far easier for people to participate than in the TV “couch potato” age. We have argued that a pernicious small state bias has crept into our democracy, one which is thwarting the will of the majority and a far more diverse US population. We have marveled, and worried, about how the design of our democracy could give one political party is strongest levels of support in seventy years while simultaneously stripping it of control of both legislative chambers. And finally, we were the primary champion of the idea of expanding the early Presidential primary states beyond Iowa and New Hampshire, a reform which for the 1st time allowed people of color to play a truly meaningful role in picking the nominee of the Democratic Party.
It is now a universal belief in the United States that our democracy itself is now longer working as it should. We hope this analysis adds another log to that fire, and puts the issue of the lack of competitive states and races in Federal elections up there with all the more familiar diagnoses of what ails our democracy today.
Every day in our own work we face it – things are changing, new competitors are rising, you have to manage what you have well but reinvent to stay ahead. Few enterprises still around are doing what they were doing in the same way as they were even a few years ago. Managing through change, renewing institutions for a new day and time is the key to success in a time of great transformation.
For a decade now NDN has understood this new landscape and offered solutions for the center-left to adapt and modernize – to renew itself – for a new day. Our work has been creative, prodigious and influential. We’ve helped identify a new coalition; the need to develop and deploy a new generation of post-broadcast TV tools; and have been leaders on emerging fights from Internet Freedom to community colleges to Cuba to immigration reform and a better understanding of why the middle class has been down for so long. For a small institution, we’ve had an outsized impact on the national debate, an impact that has made us a better and more modern political movement.
But with the events of the last few years, it has become clear that the center-left will need to go through another period of extended reform and renewal. For as successful as the last period was – and it was very successful – our opposition has not stood still, and new and daunting challenges have emerged. As an organization which helped lead the last period of renewal, the team here at NDN is saddling up for what looks to be at least a decade of hard work and innovation ahead.
The support of far-sighted investors in NDN and a few other organizations made this last period of renewal possible. But to fund this next phase we are going back out into the marketplace and asking for your financial support and engagement. Can you help us end the year strong, and hit the ground running in 2015 by making a contribution to NDN today? Whatever amount - $25, $50, $100 and more – all helps us prepare for the vital work head.
In the next few weeks we will be announcing a preliminary set of projects we think are the most strategically important for our community to spend its time on in 2015. I hope you will sign up for this next chapter in our organization’s compelling mission, and start by giving us the resources to make our work over the coming years the best yet.
A few observations about the events of the last few days:
Democrats May Have More Power in the Next Congress than Many Believed – That Speaker Boehner lost 67 of his own conference and needed Democrats to bail him out on a bet-the-Speakership vote suggests that the most important political dynamic in the next Congress will be the management of the GOP’s establishment/Tea Party fissure.
The math for Republicans to see any of their ideas become law is daunting. While depleted, the Democrats have enough power to prevent GOP overrides of Presidential vetoes, and of course Democratic votes are needed to even pass anything through the Senate. To pass a bill, including a budget, Republicans will need Democrats, which will require pursuing an approach likely to alienate anti-establishment Republicans. If President Obama, and leaders Reid and Pelosi can come up with a common strategic approach and keep their troops in line they could end up not just getting more of their agenda through than many expect, but also creating an even greater rift in the GOP ranks.
We found these columns by the Washington Post’s E.J Dionne and Greg Sargent helpful in making sense of this CRomnibus fight. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein quotes me in his early post-CRomnibus take, which is also worth a read through. And for more on the divisions in the GOP and how it will effect 2016 see my recent post-election analysis.
Raising Party Limits May Be Good for Democracy – While the process for raising the giving limits to political parties was indefensible, it might end up making a bad political system better. The post Citizen United political system is moving hundreds of millions of dollars to dark, unaccountable organizations which have no check on the integrity of their speech and do not have to disclose their donations. The practical effect of raising party limits will be to move a great deal of this money back into organizations which are far more transparent and accountable. It will improve the quality of political speech in campaigns; increase the percentage of money spent by accountable, transparent organizations; will weaken Super PACS by denying them an enormous number of their 2nd and 3rd tier donors; and it may even allow more low dollar contributors and average people to participate in the system as large, well funded Party organizations will have more resources to engage every day people in their activities. It is a bit an inconvenient truth for the reform community that only well funded campaigns have the capacity to build systems that engage large numbers of people in a meaningful way.
While the threat of corruption in this new system will increase and be of significant concern, these changes will on balance make the post Citizen United system better and strengthen our democracy in the process.
Cruz and Immigration – The threat to the Republican Party of their new found radicalization on immigration was on full display these last few days. Ted Cruz’s effort to shut down the government may have been reduced to a point of order but he managed to drag three other Senators with national aspirations into his crazy camp: Rand Paul, Rob Portman and Marco Rubio all voted for Senator Cruz on Saturday night. With anti-immigrant warrior Rep. Steve King acting as kingmaker in Iowa, there is incredible pressure for even the more moderate 2016 Republicans to embrace the ugly politics of a revitalized anti-immigrant movement.
If Cruz ends up dragging the entire GOP 2016 Presidential field to the right on immigration, he has new found pressure back in Texas fighting to keep him there or even move further to the right – newly elected Governor Greg Abbot and Lt. Gov Dan Patrick. After a generation of Republican governors who were reasonable on immigration matters, Texas elected a team who are among the most committed anti-immigrant politicians ever produced by the modern GOP. Their stated agenda will continue to pressure Cruz, Perry, Paul and Texas Congressional Members, dragging the national GOP even further away from reasonableness on an issue that is threatening to put the Presidency out of reach for the GOP for years.
The danger for the Republicans can be found in a new Gallup poll, which found Obama’s job approval among Hispanics surging in the past month from 52% to 64%. This is a higher approval rating than Obama had in the fall of 2012 when he won the Hispanic vote 71-27 against Mitt Romney. To be competitive at the Presidential level, it is conventional wisdom the GOP nominee needs to keep the margin with Hispanics to 20 or so points, and certainly not 44 as it was in 2012. While more data is needed, it certainly seems that the ground the President has made up with Hispanics as returned the GOP to an uncompetitive place with this critical group heading in 2016. And of course this is before a year of Abbott/Patrick/Cruz inspired anti-immigrant politics further distances Hispanics from a Party that is making it clear it wants all 11m undocumented immigrants in the US to leave.
Nate Cohn of the New York Times has a new, good take on Obama’s surge with Hispanic voters.
The sharp fall in worldwide oil prices is a silver lining with a silver lining, even if the linings are a bit tarnished. The price of the world’s most widely-used commodity has fallen sharply over the last five months, from a spot market price of $115 per-barrel in late June to $77 last week. For consumers everywhere, that means major savings that will mainly go to purchase other goods and services; and those boosts in demand should spur more business investment. So, if low prices hold for another six months, analysts figure that growth in most oil-consuming and oil-importing countries could be one-half to a full percentage-point higher than forecast, including here in the U.S. and in the EU, China and Japan. It’s a blow to the big oil-producing and oil-exporting nations; but the global economy will come out ahead. After all, the U.S., EU, China and Japan account for more than 65 percent of worldwide GDP, while the top ten oil exporting countries, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, make up just over 6 percent.
The hitch for this rosy scenario is that much of the revenues that OPEC countries now won’t see would have gone into financial and direct investments in the U.S. and EU. That means that new investments in American and European stocks and bonds could be reduced by some $300 billion per-year. The upshot may be slightly higher interest rates and slightly lower equity prices, which would dampen the growth benefits of lower oil prices.
The lower prices are driven mainly by supply and demand, but market expectations and some strategic maneuvering by Saudi Arabia play a role, too. Yes, worldwide oil supplies are up with rising production from U.S. and Canadian tar sands and shale deposits, and Libya’s fields are fully back online. Moreover, these supply effects are amplified by softness in demand for oil, coming from economic stagnation in much of Europe and Japan, China’s slower growth, and our own increasing use of natural gas. Oil prices also are influenced, however, by the prices that buyers and sellers expect to prevail months or years from now. Last week, when the “spot price” of crude oil was about $77 per-barrel, the price for oil to be delivered next month was almost $10 lower. In fact, the world’s big oil traders see crude prices continuing to decline not simply into 2015, but for a long time: The price for oil to be delivered in mid-2016 is less than $72 per-barrel and, according to these futures prices, not expected to reach even $80 per-barrel until 2023.
Don’t count on a decade of cheap oil. Yes, technological advances have brought down the cost of extracting oil from tar sands, shale and deep water deposits, as well as the cost of producing and transporting natural gas. But the economics of these new energy sources work best at prices higher than those prevailing today. A long period of low oil prices would slow the growth of supply from those sources -- and so drive oil prices back up. The Saudis are counting on it. They’ve refrained from cutting their own production, which could restore higher prices, in hopes that another year of low prices will slow down investments in all of those alternatives sources.
The truth is, oil prices will rise again whether the Saudis’ tactic works or not. While the outlook for much stronger growth remains slim for Japan and much of Europe, an extended spell of lower energy prices will support higher growth here, in China, and across many of the non-oil producing countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Stronger growth and energy demand will bring on line more alternative sources of energy -- so long as oil prices are high enough for the alternatives to be competitive.
This is an old story. Oil prices fell, and as sharply as they did this year, in 1985 and 1986, in 1997 and 1998, and in the aftermath of the 2008-2009 financial upheavals. Each time, oil prices marched up again after one, two, or at most three-to-four years. Of course, that volatility also makes some people billionaires. To join them, what you’ll need is patience and a hedge fund’s access to credit. With that, all you do is go out and purchase a few billion dollars in contracts to take delivery of crude in 2018 or 2020 at today’s futures prices, and then dump the contracts when oil prices once again head north of $100 per-barrel.
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog.
NDN is joining with millions of others in enthusiastic support of the bold steps the President has taken to improve our antiquated immigration system. Our team has been at the front lines of this consequential debate for many years now, and offers this roundup of our recent and most important work in this area including recaps of events we've hosted with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and the Deputy Secretary of DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas: