How Students Can Take Action to Counter the Influence of Dirty Energy Money In Politics

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Unprecedented amounts of money are being poured into Congress from the fossil fuel industry in a myriad of ways both explicit and undisclosed in an attempt to undermine America’s ability to confront the climate change crisis.

Big oil, gas and coal are using their money to have the upper hand in America’s energy and climate discussion, but, students have their own power and can insist that our political leaders step up and be accountable to future generations and to the planet.

Check out our report to learn more, and how you can take action and join our campaign to reverse this troubling trend.

  • Dirty Energy report cover

    A Student's Guide to How Corporate Oil, Gas and Coal Money Influences U.S. Energy Policy

    This guide takes the reader behind the curtains of American politics and policy development to shed light on the handful of fossil fuel-based companies that are pouring money into Congress and the media in an attempt to undermine America's ability to confront the climate change crisis.

    Download the report
     


What Students Can Do to Take Action

Click on the links below to learn what you can do to get involved.

VOTE.  Does one vote really matter? It may seem obvious and maybe even inconsequential, but it is a vital role we play as citizens. Those who peddle political influence through big money prefer that young people be apathetic and stay home on Election Day. But as long as young people vote in record numbers, as they did in the 2008 elections, they can’t be ignored. And the more you participate the more likely they are to listen. So VOTE. Get your friends to vote. Organize rides to the polls. Join students like yourself nationwide through the Power Vote campaign (NWF is one of the partners with the Energy Action Coalition). Make it happen.

Stay informed. This guide is just the first layer of the proverbial onion. Bookmark this page. Come visit often. We update it regularly with the latest information about our campaign to stop corporate polluters from influencing elections. You can also follow us on Twitter (@CampusEcology, @YouthForClimate) and on Facebook  for regular updates. Be sure to say Hi! We want to hear about what you are doing!

Get to know your elected officials. Look them up. Learn more about the positions they take and their votes on key environmental and energy legislation, especially regarding federal subsidies for oil, gas, and coal, as well as their positions on alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels. Go read the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard.

Break the Climate Silence

Challenge candidates at every level and from both parties to commit not to take campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies. What could be a better demonstration of a politician’s willingness to make the best energy decisions for America than a pledge to keep campaign cash clean? In official “political speak” they call it “bird dogging.” Show up at their events and ask them where they stand on climate and energy issues and if they take money from corporate polluters. Most of them make appearances at college campuses, so show up and be visible with a group. Spread the word about what you find out about the candidates’ positions. Blog. Tweet. Post on your Facebook wall. Post on the candidates’ Facebook walls. Join the debate. Don’t just keep calm and carry on, have a say. Let your representatives know you are paying attention. 

Take action on your campus or in your community for sustainability. It’s going to be a long fight to get our country to take action to solve the climate crisis.  We can’t wait on our national leaders to take action. There’s a lot you can do today on your campus and in your community to reduce your local carbon footprint. NWF’s Campus Ecology program has loads of case studies and guides with examples of students taking action to make their communities more sustainable. You can do this, too. You’ll learn a lot, have fun, and maybe even lower your bills in the bargain. What a deal. 

Endowments – Fight money with money. College campuses control more than $400 billion dollars in investment dollars nationwide. Many students are working to influence where these funds are invested so that funds from their schools aren’t going to support activities that undermine their futures and conflict with their campuses’ stated values.  The Energy Action Coalition has a coal divestment campaign to work with students who want to get their campuses to divest from the biggest and worst coal companies. The Sustainable Endowments Institute just launched the Billion Dollar Challenge to encourage campuses to use their endowments to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy projects for their campus. The Responsible Endowments Coalition also has tons of great resources for students who want to get involved with influencing their campuses’ endowment policies.

Fight dirty energy projects in your backyard. Stand up to the worst dirty energy projects in your own backyard. For example, many students are working to shut down coal plants that are operating right on their campuses. The Sierra Student Coalition’s Campuses Beyond Coal Campaign has some great resources. You can join the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline, where TransCanada has proposed a tar sands pipeline that would cut through six U.S. states and put American people and wildlife at risk from toxic oil spills, polluted water, and more. Look around in your community—unfortunately in most places you don’t have to look far—and get involved with local groups standing up to corporate polluters where you live.