Climate Bill Backers, Critics Rally In Tenn. Environmentalists gathered Thursday in Nashville to show their support for the climate legislation in the Senate. Last week, groups backed by the oil industry gathered in the city to oppose the measure. States with big energy sectors and high manufacturing bases such as Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee are being targeted.
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Climate Bill Backers, Critics Rally In Tenn.

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Climate Bill Backers, Critics Rally In Tenn.

Climate Bill Backers, Critics Rally In Tenn.

Climate Bill Backers, Critics Rally In Tenn.

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/112566461/112566751" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Environmentalists gathered Thursday in Nashville to show their support for the climate legislation in the Senate. Last week, groups backed by the oil industry gathered in the city to oppose the measure. States with big energy sectors and high manufacturing bases such as Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee are being targeted.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

After a month of sometimes raucous health care town halls, the climate debate could soon steal the spotlight. As the Senate prepares to take up the so-called cap and trade bill, groups for and against are organizing their own rallies. In the past week, both sides held events in Nashville. As Blake Farmer of member station WPLN reports, one side clearly upstaged the other.

(Soundbite of EnergyCitizens.org video)

Unidentified Man #1: I'm an Energy Citizen.

Unidentified Man #2: I'm an Energy Citizen.

BLAKE FARMER: More than 300 Energy Citizens got together last week for a barbecue buffet and free T-shirts at Nashville's supersized honky-tonk, the Wild Horse Saloon. A video rolled on big screens picturing farmers and truck drivers.

(Soundbite of EnergyCitizens.org video)

Unidentified Woman #1: Right now, Congress should not raise gas process.

FARMER: This video include a message from country singer Trace Adkins, who says the climate bill will take away American jobs.

(Soundbite of EnergyCitizens.org video)

Mr. TRACE ADKINS (Country Singer): I learned firsthand that the men and women who work in the energy industry, people like many of you here today, are among America's unsung heroes.

FARMER: So, who are the Energy Citizens? Well, big oil companies are the ones putting on the events through their trade group, the American Petroleum Institute. They've held rallies in 19 states over the congressional recess. Emails and robo-calls recruit interested citizens like Richard Dunn(ph), who says cap and trade will devastate the country.

Mr. RICHARD DUNN: We're in such early stages of moving forward with other sources of energy that it's a punitive bill. It's going to hurt Americans badly.

FARMER: Environmentalists have called these gatherings Astroturf, charging oil companies with fabricating grassroots support, and they're holding their own events, like one last night in Nashville. It had a very different atmosphere from the Wild Horse Saloon.

Unidentified Woman #2: We'll be getting underway shortly, and there's water out in the hallway if anyone needs water.

FARMER: About 50 people eventually trickled into this square meeting room near the Vanderbilt University campus. The event was billed as a town hall on green jobs called Repower America. The group is backed by Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. Speakers talked about job possibilities in retrofitting homes to save energy, alternative fuels and solar power. Steven Rush(ph) plans to build giant carports with solar panels.

Mr. STEVEN RUSH: Take that space and put a parking area solar array in and basically create square footage out of nowhere and turn your parking lot into a green, energy-producing asset.

FARMER: Some hope to hear less about economic development and more about how supporters plan to push climate legislation through Congress.

Ms. KATHLEEN D'ONOFRIO(ph): I did expect there was going to be more of a political direction.

FARMER: Kathleen D'Onofrio says she knows climate legislation has a high hurdle in the Senate. Do you have a little David-and-Goliath feeling going on?

Ms. D'ONOFRIO: Oh, definitely. But what I'm so fearful of now, we can't agree on any health care legislation when it involves our own selves. What's it going to be when it's this vague feeling of global warming?

FARMER: Organizers say they're not worried about the relative quiet at their meetings. Chris Ford of Tennessee Conservation Voters says the calm could signal widespread support for cap and trade.

Mr. CHRIS FORD (Tennessee Conservation Voters) I tend to think one group of people is a little quieter than another because they're already in the majority. And I think a majority of Americans want cleaner energy.

FARMER: So depending on the rally, climate legislation would either create new jobs or ship them overseas. The question becomes, which line will get the ear of Congress?

For NPR News, I'm Blake Farmer in Nashville.

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