A better path to clean energy is needed
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Half a century ago America awakened to learn that the Soviet Union had launched a satellite into space. Although this little silver globe called Sputnik did not do much on its own, its impact on America was huge. It shook our country out of its postwar complacency, helping us realize that if we sat back and did nothing, other countries could quickly overtake us with superior scientific technology.
America launched its own space program. The Apollo project, the most ambitious program in our history, achieved the goal of putting a man on the moon and returning him safely. Ten years later, through hard work and innovation, the success of our Apollo project inspired a new generation of scientists, engineers, and workers of every stripe to put America on top.
We are now challenged to meet a new global demand: create the energy our nation needs, but do so in a way that does not destroy our earth.
Last week, climate change policy, known as the "cap and trade" legislation, moved through the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I'm a member. The bill has ignited controversy, not because of an opposition to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but because the cap and trade plan would not achieve that goal. Instead, it would simply raise energy prices during a national recession without putting any money into cleaning up power plants -- many of which were designed in the days of slide rule era technology without pollution reducing scrubbers.
The cap and trade regime mandates a nationwide limit on carbon emissions, bringing it to 83 percent below current levels by 2050. This limit is very strict, arguably impossible to meet, bringing the U.S. carbon emissions level to the same level of Somalia or Haiti.
If any company is unable to meet the new emission requirements, it could purchase carbon "credits" from the government, essentially allowing them to pay a tax to continue emitting carbon at higher levels. On the other hand, if a company meets the emission standard, it could trade or sell "credits" to other companies that have not reached the emissions goal. Essentially, cap and trade becomes a pollution tax and trade scheme.
Estimates show such a plan would increase taxes. According to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, cap and trade could add $3,100 in costs to each family's annual energy bill by 2016. Factories would face even steeper increases. Manufacturing would grow in foreign countries that do not have America's strict emission standards, such as China or Brazil, because products made there would be cheaper.
U.S. companies, unable to compete internationally would be forced to shut down or ship jobs overseas. Even the Environmental Protection Agency said the bill would lead to a loss of 3 million American manufacturing jobs. On top of this, none of the tax money raised from the bill would go to support clean coal, nuclear energy, or build clean energy needs of the future.
Although many still debate the causes and impact of climate change, we must be responsible stewards of the environment for the sake of public health. We all want clean air, water, and land.
I believe we can cut emissions and create clean energy without raising taxes. It is time for an energy renaissance that uses America's energy resources to create American jobs and a cleaner America.
This is why Rep. Neil Abercrombie, D-Hawaii, and I formed a bipartisan Energy Working Group with members from both sides of the aisle that want to set America on a path to clean energy independence without raising taxes or shipping jobs overseas. After several months of deliberation, we introduced "The American Conservation and Clean Energy Independence Act of 2009" (H.R. 2227), which will move America toward energy independence, invest in renewable energy and clean up the environment while creating American jobs.
Our bill pays for itself by using the revenue from offshore drilling of oil and natural gas to fund the transition to clean energy. While the money raised as taxes under cap and trade just goes into the federal Treasury for Congress to spend on any pet project, the American Conservation and Clean Energy Independence Act directs the hundreds of billions in revenues to replace old power plants with clean coal technology; expand nuclear power; repairing our aging sewer systems; and fund environmental restoration and clean water projects
Our bill will clean up our air, land and water; dramatically improve energy efficiency and conservation; create over a million new jobs; and fuel our economy in unprecedented ways -- all of this without raising taxes or crippling our manufacturing base.
Clean energy is the Apollo project of our generation, and we can meet this goal with the same determination as we did a generation ago.
First Published May 26, 2009 7:08 pm