Retool the Wonkforce

The Capitol’s move to sugarcane plates and cornstarch cups was a good start. What’s left to clean the House?

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Nancy Pelosi swept into the speakership in 2007 with an ambitious plan to reduce House energy consumption by 50 percent in 10 years. At the time, the House alone was responsible for producing 91,000 tons of greenhouse gases, an output equivalent to the emissions from 17,200 cars. Now, sugarcane plates and cornstarch cups have replaced Styrofoam and plastic in congressional cafeterias, waste is composted, and the food is often local and organic. Four hybrids have been introduced into the Capitol fleet, energy-saving vending machines have been installed, and the Capitol and House office buildings draw part of their electricity from wind power.

While there’s still much left to do—including replacing 30,000 conventional lightbulbs with cfls—these efforts, combined with an $89,000 offset purchased on the Chicago Climate Exchange, have gotten the House partway toward its goal of carbon neutrality. (The Senate, while taking part in some of the House efforts, has yet to devise a plan—or a timeline—to go carbon neutral.)

And what about changing the fuel source of the Capitol Power Plant, DC’s only coal plant and a serial violator of the Clean Air Act? That’s where politics as usual comes in: Senators Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), both from major coal-producing states, have blocked any effort in that direction.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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