ACES Act lays solid foundation for nation’s clean-energy future

On May 21, the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrapped up deliberations on an historic energy bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). As a senior member of this committee, it was my privilege to lend my full support to this historic legislation. I truly believe it will move our country forward and help us lead the world into a stronger, 21st-century clean-energy economy by promoting energy conservation, additional sources of energy, renewable energy and new energy technologies.

While the ACES bill is not perfect, it represents tireless negotiations and a united effort by key stakeholders to draft the best climate change bill possible. I believe this bill will create new jobs and innovative technologies, protect our environment, and help America stay competitive in the 21st century.

ACES represents a balanced, yet bold, approach that will mobilize many of the characteristics that have made America great. I also believe this bill provides our nation with a unique opportunity to re-emerge as a global leader in energy innovation by engaging some of our nation’s best creative minds, their ingenuity and resourcefulness in efforts to protect our environment. The bill also represents the best intentions of members of Congress, from all regions of the country, who have come together to deliberate on legislation that attempts to advance our country’s interests by helping us become more energy-efficient and self-sufficient, while also protecting our most valuable asset, our planet.

The ACES bill addresses one of my most pressing concerns, as provisions to assist low-, moderate-, and middle-income families are included through a variety of mechanisms. Sixty percent of all allowances, or revenues generated from this bill, will go toward consumer protections to alleviate some of the rising energy costs associated with this bill. ACES helps families pay for rising energy costs by offering allowances to electric and natural gas utility companies that will allow them to subsidize consumers’ energy bills. I have also pushed for the inclusion of allowances for direct support through rebates and Electronic Benefit Transfer cards for low-income families. I am pleased to report that this provision is included in the bill.

This bill addresses another one of my top priorities by providing new opportunities for quality, career-oriented jobs for low-income communities, as well as funding for minority- and women-owned businesses. The inclusion of the Low-Income Community Energy Efficiency Program (LICEEP), which was an amendment I offered that was adopted unanimously in the committee, will provide grants to mission-driven community development organizations as a means to increase the flow of capital and technical assistance to low-income communities, as well as minority- and women-owned businesses.

This provision will spur new projects and investments in low-income communities designed to reduce environmental degradation, foster energy conservation and efficiency and create job and business opportunities for local residents. I continue to work closely with Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and other Energy and Commerce Committee members to strengthen the employment training and placement provisions within the bill to ensure that low-income communities will have access to economic opportunities as we open up an entirely new energy sector within our economy.

The fact is that America is the largest producer of greenhouse gases and the world’s largest energy consumer. It is, therefore, not enough for our nation to wait for others to act or, worse, to sit idly by as the effects of climate change become irreversible. This bill will move our country forward, decrease our reliance on fossil fuels and foreign oil, create new jobs, new technologies and a wave of economic opportunity. As the Obama administration wisely notes, America is shipping billions of dollars overseas to Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich nations to fuel our thirst for energy. We must reduce our dependence on foreign oil and diversify our energy supply. ACES helps us achieve this feat.

The merits of this bill are clear. By leading the way in creating clean-energy jobs and renewable sources of energy here at home, we will generate millions of American jobs that help make our homes and office buildings more energy efficient while also modernizing a smart electric grid.

While substantial government investments in new energy jobs were included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, ACES further helps to unleash its true potential.

While there will inevitably be some growing pains as we shift our reliance to new energy supplies, in the long term our country will reap tremendous benefits from this transition to domestic and renewable energy sources.

America has always been, and must remain, the global leader in new technologies and innovations. This bill represents a major step forward in helping us maintain our leadership role in advancing energy production and conservation. The ACES bill is a sensible and practical measure that displays America’s “can-do” spirit for the entire world to see.

I believe standing behind this bill will put me on the right side of history, and I am proud to have been involved in helping to leave my children and grandchildren a cleaner, safer and greener planet.

Rush is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.