Friday, July 23, 2010

4 Principles for Climate and Energy Legislation

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Reid, twelve Senators enumerated four principles for climate and energy legislation.

The letter was signed by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Al Franken (D-MN).

1. Oil Spill Response and Prevention

We need to pass legislation to ensure that BP and its contractors, not the American people, pay the full cost of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and that oil spill liability laws work to deter future spills. We also need to prevent future oil spills with provisions that reform regulation of offshore oil and gas production, increase penalties for violations of environmental and worker safety standards on the outer continental shelf, and prohibit drilling in certain coastal areas.

2. Reducing our Dependence on Foreign Oil

The United States imports 57% of the oil we use, and 70% of those imports come from outside North America. All told, we send $1 billion overseas every day to feed our oil addiction. Those funds often go to countries that do not have our best interests at heart. To reduce this dependence, we should set a national target to eliminate imports from OPEC nations in 20 years, and enact a national plan to meet that goal. The plan will start by building on the recent agreement to improve fuel efficiency standards through 2016 by driving demand for electric vehicles, investing in alternative fuels, and improving access to public transportation. We can pay for these new initiatives by rolling back wasteful subsidies for the world's largest energy companies or with revenue from a price on oil companies' carbon pollution. In just the first quarter of this year, the five largest oil companies reaped over $23 billion in profits.

3. Clean Energy Jobs

Investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency generate more jobs per dollar invested than conventional energy technologies. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, jobs in these sectors grew two and a half times faster than jobs in the economy as whole between 1998 and 2007. This is just the tip of the iceberg - according to an analysis by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, investments in clean energy could create 1.7 million net new jobs in the next ten years, significantly increasing our industrial and manufacturing competitiveness.To drive clean energy job growth, while cutting emissions and saving consumers money on their energy bills, clean energy legislation should include a more ambitious renewable energy and energy efficiency standard than the one currently proposed in ACELA. In addition, legislation should include a significant investment in the research, development, and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, worker training, and clean energy financing. To lower the cost of emissions reductions and help achieve pollution reduction targets, legislation should allow for domestic offsets from agriculture and forestry projects.

4. Make Polluters Pay

The single most important action we can take to reform our energy policy and make the United States a leader in the global clean energy economy is to make polluters pay for the pollution they emit. President Obama has consistently called for establishing a price on carbon as part of any comprehensive clean energy legislation Congress passes.

Putting an effective price on carbon will drive investment in clean energy technology and create the well-paid jobs that will revitalize our economy and sustain it for generations to come. A carbon price will also provide certainty in the energy market, and allow American businesses to make the investment decisions that will allow them to compete in and win the global race for clean energy technology leadership. A price on carbon can be achieved in a number of different ways, but should include the following characteristics:

• A target of at least a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution from 2009 levels by 2020, and an 83% reduction by 2050. This 1% reduction per year through 2020 is consistent with President Obama's goal of a 17% overall reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2020.
• Equal or greater investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy as for subsidies given to traditional, non-renewable fuels from revenues raised by establishing a price on carbon.
• Protect consumers by returning a majority of the revenue generated from pricing carbon directly to American households.
• Retain all existing authorities related to conventional pollutants. We should not weaken existing pollution laws that protect public health and the environment in exchange for establishing a price on carbon.
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