Running Scared

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY Mary Sibierski View of a windmill near Kisielice in northern Poland, on June 23, 2011. In Poland's hi
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY Mary Sibierski View of a windmill near Kisielice in northern Poland, on June 23, 2011. In Poland's historic Gdansk Shipyard, the winds of change are blowing again. Now, the 1980 birthplace of the Solidarity freedom movement which peacefully toppled communism in Poland in 1989 is aiming to spin profits from Europe's green energy revolution by building on and offshore wind turbine towers. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Why are fossil-fuel billionaires spending unprecedented amounts of money during this election? Because they're running scared.

Over the past four years, we've seen the clean-energy economy become strong enough to threaten the status quo. Wind energy has doubled -- our nation is now up to 50 gigawatts of wind power, enough to supply nearly 13 million American homes. Solar installations have increased by a factor of five, and the United States has regained its place as a global leader in clean-energy investment.

To you and me, that might sound like great news. But to dirty-energy billionaires determined to maintain their stranglehold on the American economy, clean energy has grown from a nuisance to a direct threat. In response, they've pulled out every stop and spent unprecedented amounts of money in a bid for control of the White House and Congress. Through September, they spent more than $150 million on ads that push their dirty-energy agenda and smear clean-energy champions.

Isn't that just how politics works? Perhaps, if you're cynical, but this election is about much more than whether Big Oil and other corporate polluters get to keep all their marbles. The decisions we make today about how we power our nation will determine whether we leave a better, healthier world for our kids -- and for countless generations beyond. The fight over fuel-efficiency standards isn't just about using less oil -- it's about achieving the biggest reduction in climate-disrupting carbon pollution in history. The battle to build a clean-energy economy isn't just about erecting more windmills and solar panels -- it's about powering our nation in a way that doesn't dump toxins into our air and water.

The lines have been drawn in election campaigns across the country, from the highest office on down, with champions for clean energy and the environment on one side and allies of dirty-energy industries on the other. It's on these critically important races that Big Oil and Big Coal are spending millions to get their way.

The good news is that all that dirty-energy money hasn't been enough to scare away clean-energy candidates who are eager to fight climate disruption and stand up to big polluters. They know what's at stake, and they're determined to win. But they can't do it alone.

From now until Election Day on Nov. 6, the Sierra Club is going to highlight champions running for office across the country who need your help.

One of those races is in New Mexico, where U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich is running against Heather Wilson for an open Senate seat.

In Congress, Martin Heinrich has never wavered. He's voted consistently to support America's growing clean-energy economy. He's championed new safeguards that will keep our air and water clean and has fought to keep drills out of our parks and public lands. And he's been a passionate advocate in the fight against climate disruption, standing up for solutions that would create new American jobs while slashing carbon emissions.

That's the kind of record you would expect from a Sierra Club member -- so it's no surprise that Martin Heinrich once served on the Rio Grande Chapter's Executive Committee. When you have a champion like that, you can expect resistance from the big polluters -- and they've doubled down for Heinrich's opponent, Heather Wilson.

Before leaving the U.S. House for an earlier failed Senate bid, Wilson had the kind of voting record that big polluters dream about. She voted to kill investments in clean energy. She pushed to give billions in tax handouts to BP, Exxon, and Shell. And she voted to let Big Oil companies off the hook for contaminating the water supplies used by tens of thousands of New Mexicans with MTBE -- a potentially life-threatening chemical.

Wilson also happens to be one of Congress's all-time leaders in taking money from oil and gas companies.

Wilson's record is so bad that the Sierra Club joined a coalition of environmental groups to run ads to make sure that New Mexicans knew about it. In response, groups with oil-soaked footprints like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS are pumping money into attack ads to prop up Wilson and tear down Heinrich.

It's a pattern we are seeing all over the country. Big Coal, Big Oil, and other polluters are spending millions to force their agenda on the American people. But there's one thing their money can never buy -- the passion of our volunteers. Thousands of grassroots activists are giving their time to work hard for environmental champions like Martin Heinrich.

The choices this election are clear in New Mexico and across the country: We can put politicians like Heather Wilson in power who will do or say whatever it takes to push a reckless agenda driven by a few billionaire campaign donors. Or we can help guarantee a bright, healthy future for of our children by voting to clean up not just the air we breathe and the water we drink but our political system, too.

I urge you all to get involved in supporting candidates like Martin Heinrich and to work as hard as you can for the next two weeks to make sure they are elected. We need your help. Our planet's future depends on it.

For more on Martin Heinrich, click here.

Use the Sierra Club Voter Guide to learn more about the records of candidates near you.

Paid for by the Sierra Club Political Committee ( and not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.