Climate bill faces more challenges in Senate

Posted July 10, 2009, at 6:56 p.m.

In a historic vote approving the American Clean Energy and Security Act, Congress has now taken the first step toward unleashing a true clean energy revolution. President Obama and tens of millions of environmentalists, union members, veterans, people of faith, small-business people, corporate leaders, sportsmen and concerned citizens have been calling on Congress to get America running on clean energy. Congress has finally answered that call.

We should be proud that both of Maine’s House members, Reps. Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree, helped pass this landmark bill. It is now up to our U.S. senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, to help strengthen the bill as it makes its way through their chamber.

This bill sets the stage for the dawn of the clean energy future. While imperfect, it sets forth a set of goals America must achieve — and exceed. The bill’s most important achievement is setting the United States on a path to reduce carbon emissions by some 80 percent by 2050, a signal accomplishment necessary to preserve the planet for future generations.

In addition to the strong long-term emissions reduction goal, it has other important provisions. It makes strides in halting international deforestation, requires new buildings to dramatically slash energy waste, will speed the development of made-in-America electric vehicles, and provides important protections for workers, consumers and others who may be affected by our transition to a clean energy future.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act also includes a lighting and appliance efficiency program; funding for domestic adaptation to global warming; criteria to ensure global warming pollution offsets are high-quality; energy efficiency requirements for natural gas utilities; and limits on potent global warming pollutants other than carbon dioxide

The bill is also projected to trim the federal deficit over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. CBO projects the bill will save the U.S. more than $24 billion.

We urged the House to pass this bill so that we could work to strengthen it before it reaches President Obama’s desk. It is now of the utmost importance that the Senate improve several of its provisions. In particular, a mechanism for cleaning up the oldest and dirtiest coal plants must be included in a final bill. It’s also vital that we ramp up the bill’s investments in energy efficiency, hasten our transition toward clean energy sources such as wind and solar, and steer more of the bill’s investments toward the public benefit — not polluters.

An unprecedented coalition of environmental, faith, community, labor, veterans, business and other groups mounted one of the most vigorous grass-roots campaigns in decades to move this crucial legislation through the House. We will now redouble our efforts to move an even stronger bill through the Senate and on to the president’s desk as soon as possible.

Passing strong climate and energy legislation will rebuild and renew our economy with millions of new green jobs, revitalize the manufacturing sector, create the industries of tomorrow, reduce our dependence on oil and fight global warming. These new green jobs — building wind turbines, installing solar panels, renovating buildings to make them more energy-efficient, constructing the Smart Grid — are jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Passing an even stronger version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act through the Senate will make the investments we need to put our economy back on the path to long-term, sustainable growth and to put millions of American workers back to work while letting our country lead again.

However, opponents of clean energy will stop at nothing to stand in the way of progress. Big Oil, Big Coal and other polluters are still holding out for a congressional bailout. They will continue to try to riddle this legislation with loopholes, water it down and load it up with hundreds of billions of dollars in giveaways. They don’t want it to deliver a recovery fueled by the clean energy jobs that America needs. We can’t afford to let these powerful special interests and their allies distort stop progress.

The right energy and climate legislation will create jobs, break the cycle of oil dependence and repower America with clean, homegrown energy from the Midwest, not the Middle East. Let’s put a strong bill on President Obama’s desk and get America running on clean energy.

Sandy Amborn is a member of the executive committee of the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club.

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