Energy & Environment

President Obama says 'let's go,' special interests conjure up new distortions to say no (Sen. John Kerry)

So, on the biggest issue we can deal with in this Congress, President Obama just weighed in big-time: "There's been some good work done by John Kerry and Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. Let's go. Let's not wait. Let's show the American people that in the midst of this crisis, all of us are opening our eyes to what's necessary to fulfill the promise to our children and our grandchildren." That's right -- the President is pounding the bully pulpit to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation.

But, ahh, Washington -- if you want a peek at why important statements like this get lost and why the 24/7 cable coverage turns into food fights sadly removed from the reality of real problems, look no further than the garbage churned out on a near daily basis by big monied interests dressed up to look like "think tanks," which publish pieces to distort the debate.

We get a great example today in the Hill, where a William Yeatman from the Competitive Enterprise Institute takes a big nothing-burger off the grill to muddy up my argument that climate change endangers our national security.

Reading his words, you'd think I was the only guy in America who sees the link between the dangers of climate change and our security. He conveniently ignores that I base my argument on the words and findings of the Pentagon, the CIA, analysts in the Bush Administration, generals like Anthony Zinni, Admirals like William Fallon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and, oh, gee, literally hundreds of other national security experts. Against that, we have someone from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization bankrolled by those trying to hold onto the status quo that has Americans sending $100 million a day to Iran for oil.

Now, let's look at the facts used by Mr. Yeatman, because they're a great example of what we're up against. He says that a single glacier area in Pakistan is getting larger and that anti-mosquito campaigns and sleeping nets help stop the spread of malaria. That's it. Well, of course mosquito nets help stop malaria. It's a complete non sequitur to the point that an unstable, warming climate will foster more disease and pandemics.

As for his other point, it's a textbook tactic from climate change deniers. They point to one localized event to try to discredit the global trend. It's true that a single glacier complex in Pakistan is growing, but that doesn't change the fact that globally, we're losing glacier mass at an alarming rate. This is exactly like the people who claim that a couple of snow storms in Washington, DC mean the climate isn't changing in dangerous ways.

The reality is that climate change is extremely dangerous in the very region Mr. Yeatman uses to make his point. India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed nations, share the waters of the runoff from the glaciers of the Himalayas, glaciers that are, over all, melting. The World Bank reported last year, "High population densities, a large concentration of poverty, and the region's climate variability have all combined to make South Asia especially sensitive to the consequences of climate change." And Reuters quoted last month, "High levels of poverty and population density also render both countries particularly vulnerable to climate change-related water shortages, said Munawar Saeed Bhatti, of Pakistan's ministry of foreign affairs."

So, you can believe Mr. Yeatman, or you can believe the World Bank and the Pentagon: instability will cause more pandemics, drought and famine, and will cause upheavals in societies around the world. These are the breeding grounds of extremism and terrorism, and they accelerate threats to our national security.

We could let that happen, or we could pass the American Power Act. Mr. Yeatman's last point is that our national security is dependent on a strong economy. On this, I couldn't agree more. That's why the American Power Act -- according to a study out today from Third Way -- cuts down on our imports foreign oil, creates 1.9 million jobs in just the first ten years, lowers energy bills for Americans, and finally starts to wean us off our oil addiction. Just ask anyone on the Gulf Coast how important that last point is.

Look, it's no surprise that these are the tactics they are using. I had my staff build a website, TruthFightsBack, just to fight back against this nonsense. Here's a page on TruthFightsBack pushing back on this specific distortion:

Cut and paste that link into your Facebook page, use the Twitter tool on that page to write a tweet on it, or email this page to anyone you think should hear this. Only by pushing out the truth can we beat back the well-funded distortions of the other side.

Now let's get at it. 

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post


Why do we distance ourselves from the oil disaster (Rep. Dennis Kucinich)

The theologian Thomas Berry wrote that the great work of our lives is to reconcile with nature, to come to establish a communion with every living species on the planet--with all humans, all animals, with the plants, with the land, the air and the water.

As children with a common creator we are part of every living thing.  This requires reverence for the natural world. When we look at the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, we learn how far we must journey to reconcile with nature.

The false doctrine of subduing the natural world puts us in danger of extinction because it ultimately attacks the precondition of human existence, and because it separates us from an understanding of the essential interconnectedness of all life. So we’re lulled into distancing ourselves from the oil disaster, from its effects on the natural world, from its effects on future generations.

Nature’s god is not just up there, but it is in all of us. And only when we truly understand the deep significance of the Deep Water Horizon disaster, will we be prepared to take a new direction, not only with our energy policies, but with our way of life.


Remembering the oil spill victims (Rep. Charlie Melancon)

I rise today with a heavy heart to remember the 11 men that died on the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon. 

Those men, and thousands other like them, travel out to offshore rigs every day to work hard and provide opportunities for the rest of us to make a living.

As the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico continues to grow we see shorelines, fisheries and other economies threatened.  This unprecedented event has the entire Gulf Coast – and country – watching to see how soon we can end this.

Setting aside the present crisis for a moment - I am proud to stand with members of this Congress to remember those men who represent a very human face to this tragedy.

I would also like to take a moment to recognize the families of those 11 people.  Those men were doing what so many other men and women do in Louisiana every day – they were working to provide a better life for their families, while braving difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions to provide the domestic energy needed to drive our nation and our economy. Our thoughts are with these families and I pray that their grief is not forgotten by the rest of us.

And we should also recognize the courageous work of the emergency responders who fought the blaze and saved lives that night.

The loss of those 11 workers is a high cost to their families, and so I ask everyone to remember the personal side to this tragedy. 

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.


Oil apocalypse or green wave? (Rep. Dennis Kucinich)

We are now in the 36th day of a man-made environmental disaster which is fast becoming an ecological apocalypse for countless species of marine life. The ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico cannot survive wave after wave of toxic substance hitting the beaches.

The ultimate surprise is not that it happened. Oil companies, and Democratic and Republican administrations, refuse responsibility and rejected alternatives. In this privatization of the natural world, damage to sea life is the cost of doing business. The ultimate horror is that we can’t stop the oil flood, won’t stop consumption of oil products and fail to admit the limits of technology.

This is a morality play writ large as environmental collapse becomes the new normal. Can we realistically look to Washington alone to protect the natural world? More permits for offshore drilling have been issued. We must look to the consequences of our own demand and consumption: the energy we use, the kind of cars we drive, the products we buy, the food we eat, and our individual impact on the natural world.

We can seize this moment. We as individuals can begin a green wave of sustainability to save the planet--and ourselves.


The rush to action (Rep. Paul Broun)

Weeks after the deadly explosion aboard a Deepwater Horizon offshore platform, more questions than answers still remain.

As the best minds in the business work to stop the oil leak, many are quick to pass judgment and call for an overhaul of federal energy regulations.  Senate Majority Leader Reid recently made the assertion that the deadly explosion was caused by British Petroleum’s “greed.”  Lawmakers also rushed to introduce legislation to “fix” the problem before experts even discovered the cause.  And worse, some called for the nationalization of the entire oil industry.


Transforming our power (Sen. John Kerry)

I don't think there are many people left who really question that we need a major transformation in the way we produce power, the disaster in the Gulf being the latest wakeup call for anyone who was still sleeping. It was the latest reminder that 40 years after Richard Nixon started talking about "energy independence," we're still stuck or moving backwards -- our economy constantly rattled by the volatile price of oil, our planet's climate increasingly unstable thanks to the pollution we're pumping into the atmosphere.

And, oh yes, we're sending billions of dollars a day overseas, with the global oil market enriching some of the most autocratic and anti-American regimes around the world. Here's one fact to stiffen the spine: as my friend Jon Powers and his band of veterans remind me, every day we keep going with what we're doing makes Iran $100 million richer and takes over a billion dollars out of our economy. Every single day.

{mosads}That's why I'm doubling down on the proposal I'm rolling out today with Senator Lieberman, a work product that reflects six months of contribution from Lindsey Graham -and hundreds of meetings with our colleagues -- major energy and comprehensive climate change legislation that meets this big challenge. It's a practical pathway to finally end our addiction to oil, put Americans back in control of our own power production, release the innovation and ingenuity of Americans to build the clean energy economy we need to build prosperity in the 21st century.

It'll help us create nearly 2 million new jobs, develop new products, and support the research and development to help us maintain leadership in the global economy. And it'll even reduce the deficit by about $21 billion in nine years.

And we've got to pass it this year.

I'm asking you to look at it on the merits, but also knowing that we have to find 60 votes in a tough atmosphere in Washington, on an issue where even a lot of good Democrats have been reluctant to act over the years.

The big details:

In the bill, we finally start to bring down carbon pollution by sending a clear price signal on that pollution. This market is tightly controlled, with only folks who need the permits able to buy the permits in the initial auction. No Wild West of speculation, no big banks coming in to buy up permits. Then the corporations who buy those permits can trade among themselves, so if a company makes great strides in bringing down their carbon pollution, they get the benefit of being able to sell off their permits, and if they don't, they need to buy more. It's simple, fair, and rewards those American companies who work hard to bring down their emissions of carbon pollution. And much of the proceeds of that carbon auction get sent straight to the American people, helping out consumers with their energy bills. Bottom-line: it does what President Obama told the world we'd do - it reduces greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 2005 levels at 2050.

We also set up a tough, WTO-consistent border adjustment mechanism so that there won't be any "carbon leakage" of companies manufacturing things overseas in countries that don't manage their emissions. Imports from those countries will have to pay a fee at the border. This will protect American industry and make sure jobs stay here at home. And we threaded that needle in a way that President Obama can support - you'll remember he was concerned about the way it's been handled in previous bills.

Next, we know we're in the middle of a major catastrophe in the Gulf, and we need to learn all the right lessons. The big lesson? Get us to the day when oil spills are infinitely less likely because we're not scrambling to pump every last barrel of oil out of every inch of the earth. You do that by transforming energy in America.

But - there's more we do in the short term. This bill starts tightens up federal law around offshore drilling, adding two major reforms. First, any state can veto drilling less than 75 miles off their coast. Second, each new rig needs to be studied for the effects of any potential spill, and any state that could be affected has the right to call a halt to the project. This creates important local control over the beaches and waterways of our country.

And here's what I get excited about as a true-believer on climate and clean energy: We also make major new investments in clean energy research and production. We need to make our country a leader in the production of clean energy technology, from cars and batteries to wind and solar technology to technology we haven't even dreamed of yet. And we direct local, state and federal authorities to take carbon pollution into account when planning new transportation projects. With these new policies and the price signal on carbon pollution, we can finally end our oil addiction and give the wind, solar, and other clean fuels the level playing field they need to grow.

Look, it's long, long overdue for America to lead. Economically, we need to get out in front of the clean energy economy of the 21st century, become the leader on the technologies that will power the world. Other countries aren't waiting on this. China just raised their auto-efficiency standards to over 36 miles a gallon, and last year, for the first time, China's investment in clean energy exceeded ours. We can't let this continue. I want to close the energy gap with China, not let a lack of political willpower allow it to grow.

{mosads}And, in terms of our planet's climate, we need to lead the way - or, at this point, finally join the parade.

There's very tough politics in the Senate, no doubt. But we've made sure that states and Senators that have been uncomfortable with this issue for decades have an unprecedented opportunity to take part in the new, clean energy economy and that's why we make strong investments in clean coal technology. And we make sure that nuclear power also has a fighting chance by streamlining and reforming the permitting process and making loan guarantees available. Many Senators have worked together to make sure these provisions are strong, fair, and don't compromise the environmental integrity of the bill. And there's a reason why people and American businesses that have always opposed and fought against previous legislation - quite successfully! - are standing behind this one.

My bottom-line: Al Gore and I held the Senate's first climate change hearings in the Commerce Committee way back in 1988. Since then, precious little progress has been made and ground has been lost internationally, all while the science has grown more compelling. I can barely even count any more the number of international summits I've attended, or press conferences we've held after losing climate change votes in the Senate where our message was: "next year, we can get this done - don't give up on the United States or the Senate." Two Congresses ago, we had 38 votes for a bill. Last Congress, we had 54 votes for cloture out of 60 needed - and we said then - me, Joe, Barbara Boxer - that this Congress we could get to 60 and pass a bill. Now we can do it - if we find the will. And we damn well better, because I don't ever want to attend another event this year or next year where I have to look anyone in the eye again and say, "next year we can do it."

No - this is the year. This is the moment. Half-measures won't cut it; now is the time for the full-court press to make it happen. 

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post


Energy efficiency means more jobs

For the past decade, my home state of Vermont has led the way in making its homes and businesses more energy efficient. On Thursday, when the U.S. House of Representatives votes on my Home Star Energy Retrofit Act (H.R. 5019), the rest of the country will have a chance to catch up.

Home Star is a common sense idea that would create jobs and provide a boost to local economies, while helping families afford their energy bills. By encouraging homeowners to invest in energy efficiency retrofits, Home Star would create 170,000 manufacturing and construction jobs that could not be outsourced to China. It would also help more than 3 million Americans invest in energy-saving technology, saving families close to $10 billion on their energy bills over 10 years.

Home Star provides two ways for Americans to invest in their homes. The first is a point-of-sale rebate for up to 50 percent of the cost of certain energy efficiency improvements up to $3,000 per home -- including insulation, HVAC units, duct sealing and water heaters. The second is a more comprehensive retrofit that rewards homeowners for the total amount of energy they save. For example, a 20 percent energy savings demonstrated by a home energy audit would result in a $3,000 rebate.


Want jobs? We can get them from clean energy (Reps. Inslee and Israel)

As we await introduction in the Senate of comprehensive energy and climate legislation consistent with the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House ten months ago, it is time to focus on other critical steps that Congress can take to harness American innovation to create millions of jobs as part of our new clean energy economy.  

The House of Representatives Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) has been at the forefront of generating legislation in Congress to create jobs and growth in the most promising and successful sector of our economy: clean energy.  By enacting policies to incentivize and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency we can revitalize domestic industries like manufacturing and construction, and increase the production of home-grown American energy technologies to power our nation to a more secure and sustainable future.


Leading the way to alternative energy solutions (Rep. Michael Honda)

Colleges and universities must lead the way in creating alternative energy solutions. Through education, innovation, and entrepreneurship, we need to radically change energy infrastructure and markets. We need to put energy supply not in the hands of a few utilities, but in the hands of individual households and institutions. This is the democratization of energy.

As an example, Santa Clara University in the Silicon Valley has made sustainability and climate neutrality top priorities. Drawing on their intellectual heritage as a Jesuit, Catholic institution, it is well on its way to strategically linking its long commitment to environmental justice to its growing efforts at ensuring a sustainable future for all.