Environment Forum

Americans are ready for a climate bill

June 21, 2010

Sugar cane harvester

Rona Fried is the CEO of SustainableBusiness.com, a news, networking, and investment site for green business, including a green jobs service and a green investing newsletter. The following opinions expressed are her own.

We are in a dire situation. One that our president recognized in his oval office address on Tuesday night: America has postponed overcoming our oil addiction for decades. The first call to wean ourselves from oil came more than three decades ago by President Carter in the late 1970s. Had we done it then, the job would have been completed in 1985. It is beyond time to end our dependence on oil. And Americans are finally ready to do it.

Recent polls say Americans want the government to prioritize renewable energy. One conducted by Benenson Strategy Group found that 63% of voters support an energy bill that limits pollution and encourages companies to use and develop clean energy.

Why, then, is the energy bill languishing in the Senate? The House approved a bill a year ago, and versions have passed in Senate committees. It’s time for a Senate vote. But like every single bill since Obama has entered office, Republicans have filibustered it, forcing 60 votes for passage instead of a simple majority.

Those 60 votes are nowhere to be found because conservative Democrats and all Republicans are against the bill. How can that be if the majority of Americans are in favor of it?

The climate and energy bill, known as the American Power Act, will boost our economy, create jobs and reduce costs for American families and businesses. Typical criticisms of the bill — it will destroy jobs, destroy our economy and increase taxes — simply are not true.

Passing the Act, according to the EPA, would create 440,000 jobs a year through 2020 and 540,000 jobs a year through 2030 while saving families $35 a year on utility bills. And it would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45%.

The most controversial part of the bill is the cap on carbon emissions. But it is that very cap that is pivotal in reaping the rewards of industry and job growth.

A carbon cap would trigger the transition to energy efficiency and clean energy by making fossil fuels more expensive. It is the very investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that would spark economic activity. The cap drives job gains in many sectors, including manufacturing, construction, services, and trade.

Comprehensive energy and climate legislation would shift energy investments and expenditures over the coming decades to new technologies, such as efficient appliances, green and healthy building materials and systems, and wind, solar, geothermal and tidal energy. Clean technologies would comprise a much larger share of the energy economy — the direction we want to go in.

Electricity and natural gas prices would rise because of carbon prices, but those increases would be more than offset by reduced energy consumption and utility rebates. Efficiency investments would lead to immediate employment increases because the work is labor intensive, and it would also lead to long term increases in GDP from energy savings and lower carbon prices. The EPA projects the legislation would save $312 billion in the economy through 2030, a third from industrial efficiency and the remainder from building retrofits.

In a report released on Wednesday, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy shows that if the energy bill enhanced efficiency provisions even more, we would triple the number of jobs created, get four times the energy savings, and save families more than $200 a year.

Passing the energy bill doesn’t mean an end to oil drilling, coal mining and nuclear. Those industries continue to get support through the bill. But Republicans are still trying hard to make sure there’s no way the bill can pass.

Last week there was a major vote on a resolution by Senator Murkowski (R-AK) to remove the EPA’s right to regulate greenhouse gases, which was originally instituted by the Supreme Court. Luckily, the resolution was voted down. It would also have nullified the new fuel economy standards for cars and light-duty trucks, which would reduce our reliance on oil, while saving Americans significant money at the pump.

But if Republicans take over the majority of Congress in the mid-term elections, we’ll move right back to this kind of antiquated ideology. It’s this back and forth that has so many Americans confused about climate change – they don’t know what to believe.

So, here are some facts. The National Climatic Data Center said on Wednesday that global temperatures were the warmest on record from January through May. Arctic sea ice melted 50 percent faster than the average in May. The earth is getting perilously close to exceeding a 2 degree Celsius global temperature increase, which would bring devastating consequences if it happens.

Inaction and outdated thinking have run their course. Our choice as Americans is to demand a clean energy bill or close our eyes and hope it’s not true. Meanwhile, we continue to send $100 million a day to Iran and live through environmental, and financial, disasters like BP’s Gulf oil spill.

Senate Democrats held a meeting on Thursday to review which measures in the energy and climate bill could garner the elusive 60 votes. Once again, they were unable to find the right formula that will get the votes. The only solution left now is to take the same path they took to pass health care reform. Democrats should use the Reconciliation process to pass the energy bill so they can pass it with a simple majority.

Making our climate a sustainable one is really a matter of life versus death, but unfortunately it has become a partisan issue. So come mid-terms in November Americans should know that if they vote Republican, an energy and climate bill will never be passed.

Comments
10 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

People like you are socialist communists who are using and accident to try to seize control of even more of the United States Economy….May I suggest moving to Cuba, oh, but wait, they jail journalists there, don’t they…….

Posted by kevinfromduluth | Report as abusive
 

I believe that Dr. Fried is correct that little America is more than ready to embrace a clean energy future and more than a little unhappy funding both sides of the war on terror. Yet Congress has long since stopped caring what “We The People” want, and as the health care debate showed, the only thing Congress loves more than reelection, is political donations they derive from the endless quagmire of maintaining the status quo!

As someone who lives in New Orleans, one would think a +100 million gallon oil spill, wrecking the environment and the economy would change the dialog, yet both of our Senators (D-Landrieu & R-Vitter), are calling for an end to the moratorium on offshore drilling, and would never even consider anything that might challenge the millions they receive from the big oil & power industries. …regardless of what America wants or might be good for her in the long run.

As Bill Gates says, the only thing that will change the energy status quo, is for someone to invent a cheaper alternative that can overcome the subsidized energy markets we have today. I know cap and trade is a marketplace mechanism that could help the process along, but so was the single-payer public-option, which never was really considered by the Senate as an option because big medical, big insurance and big drugs has no interest in a healthy America. Just as big oil and big power has no interest in Sustainable USA.

Until the press (aka Big Media) is willing to support little-America over Big-America in an intellectual honest marketplace of ideas, don’t expect Congress to lead us anywhere.

There is reason for hope, as the internet/blogosphere has removed the NEED for big media, its power and influence has waned, and once they realize they are in the same boat as little-America and the Supreme Court isn’t going to allow Congress to bail them out, then they may finally start holding sold-out politicians feet to the fire and change could happen.

But if you think David Vitter and Mary Landrieu are going to lead the charge against big oil and big power because little-America is ready, it might be good for the environment or America’s future; under the watchful guise of the Times Picayune? …well that is just silly!

Posted by 123GoSolar | Report as abusive
 

Many believe Obama lets this spill go on for Political reasons. The Gulf States are Red States. ” Ruin their economy and they will be forced to turn to Government”.

If so he is underestimating the gulf states. I know the people of Louisiana love and have deep Loyalty to their state. They will never forgive him for this.

Obama Refused Dutch Oil Cleanup Help?
Houston Chronicle business columnist Loren Steffy Three days after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch government offered to help. It was willing to provide ships outfitted with oil-skimming booms, and it proposed a plan for building sand barriers to protect sensitive marshlands. The response from the Obama administration and BP, which are coordinating the cleanup: “The embassy got a nice letter from the administration that said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’” said Geert Visser, consul general for the Netherlands in Houston.

**Now, almost seven weeks later, as the oil spewing from the battered well spreads across the Gulf and soils pristine beaches and coastline, BP and our government have reconsidered. U.S. ships are being outfitted this week with four pairs of the skimming booms airlifted from the Netherlands and should be deployed within days. Each pair can process 5 million gallons of water a day, removing 20,000 tons of oil and sludge.
At that rate, how much more oil could have been removed from the Gulf during the past month?
, the plan for building sand barriers remains more uncertain. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal supports the idea, and the Coast Guard has tentatively approved the pro-ject. One of the proposals being considered was developed by the Dutch marine contractor Van Oord and Deltares, a Dutch research institute that specializes in environmental issues in deltas, coastal areas and rivers. They have a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.
That proposal, like the offer for skimmers, was rebuffed but later accepted by the government. BP has begun paying about $360 million to cover the costs

Posted by jfarahcamp | Report as abusive
 

You contradict yourself – First you claim:
“But like every single bill since Obama has entered office, Republicans have filibustered it, forcing 60 votes for passage instead of a simple majority.

Then you claim:
“Those 60 votes are nowhere to be found because conservative Democrats and all Republicans are against the bill. How can that be if the majority of Americans are in favor of it?”

Seriously – are you so DAFT that you can’t understand?
YES – Americans want independence from foreign oil!!

BUT – NO!!! WE DO NOT WANT the CAP and TRADE SCAM!!!
IF you want more ridiculous “Monopoly game” style taxes – based on manufactured schemes in order to tax individuals through hidden agenda’s then you are in a clear minority!!

Your savior, Obama, is has demonstrated a complete disrespect, and disregard for what “the people” actually want!!

Burying garbage like CAP and TRADE measures in every possible, unrelated bill is why the bills don’t pass!!
By the way – for the record, I am neither Dem or Rep – so clear your head of any politically motivated bent here!!

Posted by thinkink | Report as abusive
 

A couple of political and economic clarifications.

1. The “first call” to wean ourselves from oil was not made by President Carter, but by President Nixon, a Republican. Then repeated by President Ford, another Republican, making President Carter the “third call” but the first Democrat.

2. The idea of putting a carbon or pollution tax on oil originated with conservative and libertarian economists such as Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. They recognized that the price of oil is deceptively low due to huge government subsidies and the failure to account for externalities such as the pollution (not just carbon, but also particulates, highly toxic benzene, etc.) that oil imposes on all of us. A true conservative and capitalist would insist that oil receive zero government subsidies and that its price account for the full cost of pollution. If we did that, then solar, wind, geothermal and other renewables would attract more investment dollars and be price competitive. And if we added into the price of oil the cost of our military securing oil fields in places like Kuwait and Iraq, then alternatives would be downright cheap in comparison.

3. Unfortunately, history suggests that we will kill ourselves or come close to killing ourselves before we actually do anything to reduce out dependence on oil. Just look at the Dust Bowl that destroyed countless lives and nearly destroyed this country. Congress took no action until a dust storm reached Washington, D.C. Even then, they were reluctant to put in place the regulations on land use that were necessary to build sustainable agriculture. Those opposed to regulation called themselves capitalists and defenders of the free market; they called those who urged sustainable agriculture commies and worse. Just like today with oil. Of course, if we have stayed the course and listened to them back then, we would have starved to death by now. Instead, we built the most powerful agricultural industry in the world. We can do the same thing with renewable energy if we are willing to pay the price now. Or we can continue to hide the costs, not pay the price, and remain dependent on despotic regimes and rapacious multinational oil companies.

John Howley
http://www.HowleyGreenEnergy.com

Posted by HowleyGreen | Report as abusive
 

“Those 60 votes are nowhere to be found because conservative Democrats and all Republicans are against the bill. How can that be if the majority of Americans are in favor of it?”

Are you really that naive?

Big business bribes the politicians, not the majority of Americans.

Posted by doctorjay317 | Report as abusive
 

Ultimately reducing our consumption and dependance on oil reduces the price of oil; making it the most attractive fuel for developing nations, where sustainability is a luxury. We acheive a class stagnating tax structure here while providng a cheap fuel for the rest of the world. Leadership does not mean being the first to enact another set of punitve and reactionary rules that translate behavior into dollars; its a tiresome solution and comepletly ineffective without global participation. There is tremendous opportunity for carrot here ie. reduction in carbon output tied to a reduction in the corporate tax rate etc. We are saturated with ineffectual regulations and beaten with dire preditions, make the process positive. Incentives will achieve what criminalizing (taxing/shaming) humans for there carbon output won’t.

Posted by The0Larch | Report as abusive
 

The only climate we need changed is the one in D.C.

Global warming is a fraud, and the fraudsters are now looking to cash in on it. Weak minded people are still buying into it despite all the info showing how it has been politically motivated instead of scientifically proven.

Posted by ooddballz | Report as abusive
 

Isn’t it just common sense that taking millions of years of sequestered carbon and putting it all into the atmosphere in a scant couple of hundred years is going to have consequences?

Posted by Sc0tt | Report as abusive
 

Scott, clearly common sense is not all that common.

Posted by coyotle | Report as abusive
 

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