Recently, I joined Maine constituents in Washington, D.C., to encourage Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to take action on clean energy and climate change legislation this summer. We were joined by hundreds of people from across the United States, including leaders from the business, labor, faith, national security, environmental and sportsmen communities. Our collective message to all senators was clear — in the wake of the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, Americans want action now, not temporary solutions to our energy challenges. Now is time for the Senate to act and pass a comprehensive climate and energy policy as the House has done.
We had a very productive and engaging meeting with Sen. Collins that included a discussion of the CLEAR Act she has sponsored with Sen. Maria Cantwell. Unfortunately, just before our meeting with Sen. Olympia Snowe, it was announced the Senate will not take action on comprehensive legislation this year. As a leader supporting our need to cap carbon emissions, Sen. Snowe was clearly disappointed.
The announcement that comprehensive climate legislation will not be acted on by the Senate in the immediate future means big oil and dirty coal and their army of paid lobbyists maintain their grip on America’s energy and climate policy. The oil and gas industry has spent $213 million on lobbying in this Congress alone.
At every juncture during this debate, a minority of senators in the pocket of the fossil fuel interests have obstructed this historic opportunity to solve America’s climate and energy challenges, preferring to leave the polluters and their allies in Congress in control of our energy policy.
The U.S. Senate still has an extraordinary opportunity to show real leadership by enacting clean energy and climate legislation that will enhance our national security, create jobs, reduce our oil dependence, and cut pollution.
Senators in Washington still have a choice: They can stand with Big Foreign Oil or they can stand with the American people who want a clean energy future. They can let polluters off the hook or they can make them pay for their pollution. They can choose to delay or they can enact comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.
Like Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, who recently visited Maine, I am a concerned veteran worried about the toll our reliance on fossil fuels and its resulting damage to our planet are taking on our military and national security. The Department of Defense, the CIA, the National Intelligence Council, along with other federal agencies, retired military officers, veterans, and leading national security experts have all stated that climate change poses a significant strategic threat to America’s strength and safety. It’s time to change course.
Each day the Senate fails to act on comprehensive clean energy and climate plan, our enemies are enriched and our security is put at risk. The United States spends $1 billion a day importing foreign oil, money that could be invested and put to better use here at home by creating jobs such as wind turbine production in our old textile mills and sardine factories. Many of the countries receiving this transfer of wealth are unstable, hostile regimes that don’t share our values and are at odds with our interests and those of our allies.
Iran, for example, gets $100 million in oil revenues a day from our dependence on their oil reserves. This is a nation that not only funds terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, but abuses the human rights of its own citizens. Iran is also seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon, an easier goal to achieve thanks to the resources we provide them because of our addiction to their oil. A comprehensive climate and energy bill would greatly reduce this transfer of wealth, and lessen Iran and other rogue states’ ability to perilously affect world events.
Reality tells us that we must not only end our addiction to foreign oil, but also gradually reduce our dependence on oil produced here at home. America consumes nearly 25 percent of the world’s oil each year, but at most we have access to only 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.
For more than 40 years, leaders in Washington have called for action that would cut our addiction to oil, create clean energy jobs, and limit pollution. This is a truly historic moment and opportunity in our nation’s history. We cannot let powerful special interests stand in the way of American people.
Thomas J. Foley, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, lives in Cape Porpoise.