Ready for action: Highlights from the Kentucky Energy Freedom Tour
By Flannery Winchester
In the proud tradition of CCL’s “Energy Freedom Tours,” like the ones across Texas and Georgia, CCL’s Southeast Director Don Addu hit the road in Kentucky last week. From July 10 to July 13, he traveled to Bowling Green, Lexington, Covington and Louisville to discuss a market-based solution to climate change. The tour was primarily arranged by area group leaders or potential group leaders in each city, so a huge shout out to:
- Clara and Claudia in Bowling Green
- Nick and Bonnie in Lexington
- Jim and Tony in Covington
- Jean and Ruth Ann in Louisville
Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, you were trying to promote climate solutions in Kentucky? How was that?”
It was phenomenal.
“As a whole, when I came into Kentucky, I assumed I was coming into a state where I would meet a lot of resistance,” Addu acknowledged. But in fact, he said, “That was not the case. Everyone I talked to was excited to hear that we were talking about climate change.”
“That’s not just the folks that came to our presentations,” he added, which numbered nearly 50 people across the state. Even people Addu encountered during his travels were receptive to his message, including a pair of McConnell voters he met on a bourbon tour. They asked him what brought him to Kentucky. “I said I was there to teach folks how to engage their government,” Addu said. When he specified that the topic was climate change, the man’s response was, “Oh yeah, we need to address that!”
“In the entire time I spent in Kentucky, I haven’t found one person who argued with me that climate change isn’t real or that we shouldn’t do anything about it,” Addu said. “It really put a new perspective on the state.”
Energizing the state
This tour set the stage for ongoing climate advocacy in these four Kentucky chapters and beyond. “The meeting in Bowling Green was kind of a relaunch for that group,” Addu said. “They hadn’t met for several months, but now there’s much more cohesion. They have a meeting planned for August.”
“In Louisville, this young lady named Destiny was just so excited. She was a high school student who came out as a liaison for her school’s environmental group, and she really wants to work with CCL on getting them involved,” Addu said. “That’s a great opportunity.”
Addu also sees lots of opportunity in Lexington and Covington, based on the engagement and enthusiasm he saw there. Covington even has a group start workshop scheduled for the end of September!
Interestingly, the toughest conversations of the tour happened with more left-leaning groups. At the Lexington meeting, Addu had a discussion with some Kentuckians who felt the equal dividend didn’t do enough to help low-income households. Their perspective was that all the money should go back to people who need it most.
Addu shared with them the results of the 2016 Household Impact Study, a working paper assessing the financial impact a $15/ton carbon fee and dividend plan would have on American households. The study found that 58% of individuals receive a net financial benefit from a fee and dividend plan. Plus, “the gains are concentrated among those considered ‘most vulnerable’ within our society: those with lower incomes, the youngest and oldest, and minorities.” Addu also pointed out that, ultimately, a bill is only as good as its ability to pass the legislature. For that, we need open communication and support from many different groups and legislators.
Even when they seem tough, these are great conversations to have. It means that everyone at the table understands climate change is a serious threat, and we’re ready to work together to find the best solution for everyone. We’re eager to keep the conversation going with groups on the left, the right, and everywhere in between.
“I’m leaving this tour with the feeling that there’s way more opportunity in Kentucky for this kind of engagement than I ever imagined,” Addu said. “There are folks here who want to be engaged—it’s just a matter of us opening the door.”