In opening statements before the Environment and Public Works committee, top Obama administration officials urged the Senate to take fast and effective action to accelerate the nation's expansion of clean energy generation, both to create jobs and to and cut the human-propelled greenhouse gas pollution that is causing global warming.
"Denial of the climate change problem will not change our destiny; a comprehensive energy and climate bill that caps and then reduces carbon emissions will," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "America has the opportunity to lead a new industrial revolution of creating sustainable, clean energy. We can sit on the sidelines and deny the scientific facts, or we can get in the game and play to win."
Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson focused on the potential for innovation: "Clean energy is to this decade and the next what the Space Race was to the 1950s and ‘60s, and America is behind. Governments in Asia and Europe are ahead of the United States in making aggressive investments in clean-energy technology," she said.
"American businesses need strong incentives and investments now in order for this nation to lead the 21st Century global economy. We are also coming late to the task of leading the world’s major greenhouse-gas emitters to reverse our collective emissions’ growth in time to avert catastrophic climactic changes that would severely harm America’s economy and national security within our children’s lifetimes. The necessary shared effort will not begin in earnest unless and until the United States leads the charge.
"The advantage of the kind of legislation the President has called for is that it ramps up investment in developing new clean-energy technologies while giving companies an effective incentive to use those technologies to reduce greenhouse-gas pollution. It does so without raising taxes or increasing the deficit."
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack emphasized that expanding clean energy generation and combating global warming both offer huge economic opportunities for rural communities. "The potential of our working lands to generate greenhouse gas reductions is significant. In fact today, our lands are a net sink of greenhouse gases. Based on the latest statistics from EPA’s Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, forest and agricultural lands in the U.S. take up more greenhouse gases in the form of carbon dioxide than is released from all of our agricultural operations," he said.
Further, "Rural landowners can benefit from incentives in climate and energy legislation that reward production of renewable energy such as wind and bioenergy. A number of renewable energy technologies such as anaerobic digesters, geothermal, and wind power can reduce farmers’ reliance on fossil fuels," said Secretary Vilsack.
"These technologies and promotion of a clean energy economy will also stimulate the creation of new jobs. As farmers, ranchers, and land managers look to install an anaerobic digester or build a wind farm – people will be needed to build the machines and install the systems ...
Vilsack noted that any offset market will need to " recognize the scale of the changes needed and the infrastructure that will be required to deliver information, manage data and resources, and maintain records and registries," referencing the $7.2 billion in funding under the stimulus act to improve broadband internet access for rural communities. Some GOP legislators decried the move as pork-barrel spending.
"Second, ensuring the environmental integrity of agricultural and forest offsets is critical to addressing climate change and maintaining public confidence in the carbon offset program," said Vilsack.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar highlighted the economic potential created by generating renewable energy on public lands. "Interior is our nation’s largest landowner with jurisdiction over 20% of the land mass of the United States and 1.75 billion acres of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)," he said. "As America’s largest water provider and land and wildlife manager, Interior is already faced with the impacts of climate change on land, water and wildlife. Interior will thus play a key role in how the U.S. Government addresses and adapt to these climate change issues."
"Since coming into office, we have prioritized the development of renewable energy on our public lands and our offshore waters. American business is responding. Companies are investing in wind farms off the Atlantic seacoast, solar facilities in the Southwest, and geothermal energy projects throughout the west. These new energy sources produce no greenhouse gases and, once installed, they harness abundant, renewable energy that nature itself provides."
Salazar uged the Senate to act by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, saying his words apply just as aptly to the climate crisis as they did to the fight for civil rights:
"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”
(Hat tip to Grist for putting the full statements online.)
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