ACES Act: A bold step in the right direction

I am a strong supporter of our country’s new direction toward a new clean energy policy. That is one of the reasons why I voted in favor of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. This is a bill grounded in science that provides good solutions to tough problems and it pushes us to take greater responsibility for our use of energy. More importantly, I view it as a vote for the future of my district and our nation’s future as a world leader.

This bill, H.R. 2454, will significantly reduce dangerous pollution by limiting emissions from electric utilities, oil refineries, and other major sources. It also promotes all forms of American clean energy, including wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. It supports private investment in nuclear power, cleaner coal technology, and new, efficient American vehicle technology. It also creates an opportunity for farmers and ranchers, allowing them to earn carbon offsets in exchange for planting trees, preserving existing forests, practicing sustainable farming methods, and other stewardship activities.

We can no longer afford to delay changing our outdated energy policy. Americans, including many of my constituents, cannot continue to afford the rising cost for energy.

Today people are overexposed to the uncertainty of depending upon foreign sources of fuels. We, as a nation, cannot sustain this unacceptable and untenable state of affairs.

Families have been crushed by the sharp rises in the cost of fuel. Much of Deep South Texas is rural and it takes a lot of time and fuel to get from one place to the next. Whether a farmer there is delivering a citrus crop or driving to the doctor’s office for a check-up, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to perform essential tasks. In addition, the median household income in the district is $30,181 and per capita income is $13,654 (compared to the state medians of $51,165 and $23,294, respectively). So in my district we have high fuel costs (like the rest of the nation) but intensive rates of use, a necessary circumstance of rural America, exacerbated by low wages. Many families feel they will never get a break.

However, I have faith that our determination and combined ingenuity will allow us to take the lead in a new energy economy so that every American household will reap the benefits of cheaper sources of energy.

Developing our domestic sources, with special emphasis on renewables, will help lower costs and build in stability to an inherently volatile market. We will create new jobs, technology and wealth. For example, in the cities of La Feria and Santa Rosa, which are in my district, there are already firms developing wind, solar, and biomass technologies. As more of these projects come online, they will become less expensive and prove to be competitive alternatives to cheaper sources of carbon-based fuel. My office recently organized two energy workshops where over 150 cities, counties, organizations and entrepreneurs attended to learn about how they can best apply and take advantage of the opportunities in energy created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. We want our communities to be well-positioned to reap the rewards of monies coming to Texas for energy projects.

However, I believe carbon-based fuel will continue to play a vital part in our economy and that is especially important to the 15th congressional district of Texas, which is among the top producers of oil in the state. Carbon-based fuels are not inherently bad. However, since we began using these fuels we have never incorporated or completely understood the full cost of burning them. But now, we have finally begun incorporating the harm of greenhouse gases into the cost of the fuels we burn. This was the first and arguably the easiest step to take and I am glad to see Congress finally take meaningful action.

My continued hope is that Congress will keep the bold course it has charted for itself. By investing in technology and our workforce, we can and will be a world leader in energy. This bill is a bold step in the right direction and our country is poised to take the lead. I urge the Senate to take a critical look at what this legislation means to our families, to our children, to our community. In doing so, they’ll see that passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act for the president to sign into law will be one of the greatest accomplishments of our time.

Hinojosa is serving his seventh term in Texas’s 15th district.