Guest: David Roberts of Volts; Also: Update on stolen Dominion software released at Pillow Guy's failed 'Cyber Symposium' as CA Recall begins...
By Brad Friedman on 8/13/2021, 6:50pm PT  

Our guest on The BradCast today is virtually begging those on the environmental center and left to come together, to put aside their various (if important) pet projects, in hopes of coming together for two key elements in the blueprint for the Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. It is, he details, our last, best chance for likely more than a decade to soften the blow of our climate emergency. Do that, he says, then "we can resume fighting like a bag full of cats in a couple of months." [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]

But, first up, a quick follow-up from yesterday's BradCast, during which we broke the news that someone at MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell's bat-crap insane three-day "Cyber Symposium" in South Dakota this week to "Stop the Steal," released digital image copies of three hard drives containing Dominion Voting Systems actual Election Management System software, as used in real elections across the country. These copies seem to have come out of the County Clerk's office in Mesa County, Colorado. The elected County Clerk there, Tina Peters, is a hard-right official who appeared at Lindell's "symposium" that promised to reveal (then spectacularly didn't) how China supposedly flipped millions of votes over the Internet in 2020 to steal the election from Donald Trump.

With our confirmation yesterday that the Dominion software is now confirmed to be in the wild, even as the Gubernatorial Recall election is now under way in California (where Dominion's software is used in about 60% of the state), there are very serious concerns about what effect the security breach could have on the Recall election --- not to mention others coming up across the country this November. Marilyn Marks, a regular guest on the show, whose non-partisan election watchdog group, the Coalition for Good Governance, is suing the state of Georgia in federal court to stop them from forcing voters to use Dominion's unverifiable and vulnerable touchscreen voting systems in every polling place, tweeted yesterday about the "looming dark cloud over the Nov. elections," following the exposure of the EMS software. She wonders when and if election officials in the Peach State might pay attention to this breach, not to mention when national media, which seems to be all but asleep at the wheel on this, might cover the story as well.

The founder of Georgia Tech's new School of Cybersecurity, Prof. Richard DeMillo, who joined us on the show earlier this week before the stolen hard drives were leaked, to discuss vulnerabilities recently uncovered by an expert witness [PDF] in Dominion's system in the Georgia case, told me via email today that he is "still processing" the breach. But, he told me, the "news points to the urgency" of unsealing the report by the Coalition's expert witness in the case, at least to other cybsersecurity experts and election officials. "The fact that the Dominion EMS images are now public increases the likelihood that [Dominion] ImageCast voting software [as used on their touchscreen voting machines] was also leaked. The only antidote is to conform to standard industry practice and publish their vulnerabilities so that Dominion and their customers can take public steps to mitigate the risks to election infrastructure."

For the record, a number of large jurisdictions in California use the exact same Dominion touchscreens as are used across Georgia, including San Diego, San Francisco and Riverside. Are state officials here in CA even aware of this latest, serious leak? We will continue to follow the story in the days ahead, and hope that national media --- or even just CA media! --- jump in and try to get some answers from election officials about what this serious concern may mean for ongoing voting in the Recall.

Then, along with the news today from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that July was declared the hottest month on the planet in recorded history, we're joined by a longtime progressive climate and energy journalist who is trying to help Democrats and climate activists understand the necessity of supporting two key provisions in the Democrats landmark, $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill. He described this matter recently as America's "last big shot at climate change policy for a decade or more."

The great DAVID ROBERTS, publisher of the must-read Volts newsletter, joins us today to explain the importance of those two initiatives, the development of a Clean Energy Standard (CES) and clean energy tax credits in the reconciliation bill. The huge measure can be passed with simple majorities in both chambers, as long as all 50 Senators who caucus with Democrats and almost all of the Democrats in the House play along. Those two provisions together, he wrote and explains today, "would revolutionize the US electricity system" and finally give us the chance to reach net-zero emissions from the electric grid in the very few years climate scientists now tell us we must, in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Never mind other ideas that climate hawks may have for now, such as a carbon tax or cap-and-dividend. They are not part of President Biden's menu of options. It's this "or we will get nothing that will tackle fossil fuels this decade," he warns.

It may sound a bit wonky, but it really isn't. Roberts spells out, in simple terms, what both a clean energy standard and clean energy tax credits mean in the context of the critical goal of decarbonizing our electricity system, even as he has preached that the answer to ending the dangerous burning of fossil fuels is to "electrify everything", from transportation to buildings.

"Right now, roughly a third of our emissions come from electricity. But the whole plan for decarbonization is to move transportation --- which right now runs on gasoline and diesel --- to move that over to electricity. And to move buildings --- right now buildings are heated and cooled largely with fossil fuels, mainly with natural gas --- to move that over to electricity," he says. "So if you move the other two big chunks of emissions onto the electricity grid, then you see that, oh, having a clean electricity grid is the core strategy for decarbonization.  It's not just one sector. This is the sector that is going to clean up all the other sectors. So there's nothing more important for short-term, immediate decarbonization than cleaning up the electrical grid."

Both the Clean Energy Standard and tax credits will serve to move the entire grid to renewables. "Renewables are the cheapest form of clean energy. And the overwhelming effect, as any analyst will tell you, if we pass this policy, is going to be giant surge of renewable energy projects."

There is, of course, much more to this conversation, but the bottom line is that, as Roberts warns, "the stakes are enormous," and with Democratic majorities so narrow right now in both Congressional chambers, virtual any Senator or faction can sink both this bill and the smaller but still critical $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that's paired with it.

"If Democrats fail, they all fail, and they're going to get crushed in 2022," Roberts tells me, as he explains how it may be that a fossil fuel-loving Senator like Joe Manchin from coal state West Virginia, may still find a way to support these efforts which will, necessarily, hasten the demise of fossil fuels.

"So Manchin and [Bernie] Sanders are going to have to find a bill that they can both sign," Roberts argues. "[Kyrsten] Sinema is going to have to find a bill she can sign. I don't think even she wants to be responsible for the whole Democratic agenda going down, including her precious, beloved bipartisan infrastructure bill, because that would go down too. So it all sinks or swims together. It's a unique situation in my lifetime."

If these two bills actually make their way to the President's desk, especially with the two key provisions Roberts is citing as critical to curbing global warming, he says he will "eat crow" from every rooftop in the land, when it comes to his earlier doubts about Joe Biden's centrist, go-along to get-along roots. These measures, if they actually happen, he notes, would easily place Biden into the Democratic pantheon along with folks like FDR and quickly eclipse even Barack Obama's own accomplishments in office.

"Calling your lawmaker matters," Roberts emphasizes, even if you believe they are already on the correct side of this fight. "This is something I hear from Senate offices, from House offices, all the time. The email campaigns? Eh. The letters?  Eh.  But when people take the time to call, it gets collated and marked down, and the Senator hears about it. It matters. They need to hear that there is a public appetite specifically for the climate provisions to get through." Tell them you support a CLEAN ENERGY STANDARD.

"This is crunch time," he warns. "Everybody needs to be talking about it and getting their fellow Democrats fired up. This is the time to fall into formation, to quote Beyoncé, it's time to fall into formation and make this happen. We can resume fighting like a bag full of cats in a couple of months. But, just for a few months, we need to be coordinated and speaking in a single voice. Specifically the Clean Energy Standard. That's the core of it."

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