Thursday, August 18, 2011

Politics and Climate Change

   I wrote a while back in a post titled, It's Time To Shut Up And Do Something, that I believe climate change is the biggest issue we may ever face as a species.

   I didn't stop with my blog post. I appealed to my own representatives on the matter. Here is what Senator Maria Cantwell had to say.

   The language illustrates that, while we all agree climate change is a problem, we're not willing to make many concessions.

   As always, we are continuing to live off the backs of future generations because we are not willing to sacrifice.

   We suck.

[From Maria Cantwell : ]

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about climate change.  I appreciate hearing from you on what I believe is the preeminent environmental challenge facing our generation and sincerely regret the delayed response.

As you know, scientists have determined that the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, will cause the Earth's climate to warm, potentially leading to greater occurrences of droughts, floods, and other catastrophic natural disasters.  In Washington, climate change is expected to alter the region's historic water cycle, threatening drinking water supplies, wildlife and salmon habitat, and the availability of emissions free hydropower.  In fact, researchers project that the annual average temperature in the Pacific Northwest will rise about 2 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2020s and April 1 snowpack could decrease as much as 40% in Washington State by the 2040s.  Considering these potentially serious environmental and economic consequences, I believe that the United States must urgently address this matter, in partnership with the rest of the world.

One of my top priorities as a U.S. Senator has been to fight for legislation to promote the production of renewable energy, incentivize energy efficiency, develop clean technology industries, and protect our environment. While these energy measures provide critical tools necessary to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we also need federal legislation that establishes scientifically based emissions caps. Unfortunately, I have concerns about the cap-and-trade climate measures that have dominated Congressional debate to date because they unfairly penalize the Pacific Northwest's decades-old reliance on emissions free hydropower.  In addition, they do not recognize that our state's hydropower system is mature and won't be able to add much more capacity in coming years, thus any future electricity generation will likely be relatively more polluting.  Some legislative proposals would also effectively penalize Washington State for its years of aggressive energy efficiency measures, making any additional savings more costly for Washington State relative to other parts of the country. Finally, I have strong concerns that some cap-and-trade proposals could provide windfalls to historic polluters, or allow excessive speculation and manipulation of emission allocation trading markets.  For decades, Washingtonians have been on the cutting edge of clean energy solutions and energy efficiency, setting an example for the rest of the nation.  I have been committed to working with my colleagues to craft legislation that will cut our greenhouse gas emissions without punishing low carbon intensity states.

With that in mind, on December 11, 2009, I authored and introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that will put a predictable price on carbon, reduce our nation's dangerous over-dependence on fossil fuels, and mitigate the threat of global warming.  This bill will accelerate our nation's urgently needed transition to a clean energy economy, helping ensure America's leadership in the largest market opportunity of the 21st century while protecting the vast majority of Americans from higher energy prices.

The Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act (S. 2877) gradually limits the amount of fossil fuels entering the U.S. economy by requiring fossil fuel producers and importers to bid at an auction for permits to place their product into commerce. Out of the money raised at the auction, three-fourths goes directly back to every American, and one-fourth goes toward clean energy investment. Eventually, as the amount of carbon allowed into the market declines over time and spending increases in other greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts, the CLEAR Act will reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, and by over 80 percent before 2050.

Many Americans are rightfully concerned about rising energy bills during America's transition to a clean energy economy.  That's why the CLEAR Act is rooted in protecting consumers, with most of the monthly carbon auctions going straight to your pockets.  This monthly dividend, made out to each American on an equal per capita basis, ensures all but the wealthiest ten percent of Washingtonians (who use the most energy) do not lose money but instead come out ahead.  A typical family of four would receive tax-free monthly checks averaging $1,100 per year, or up to $21,000 between 2012 and 2030.

The remaining quarter of auction revenues are directed to a dedicated trust, the Clean Energy Reinvestment Trust (CERT) Fund, to accelerate the nation's urgently needed transition to a cleaner 21st century energy system and meet other climate change-related priorities. These priorities include clean energy R&D, low income weatherization assistance, reductions of greenhouse gases in the forestry and agricultural sectors, and needs-based, regionally-targeted assistance for communities and workers transitioning to a clean energy economy.

The CLEAR Act invests in America's future by positioning the United States as a global leader in clean energy expansion, creating jobs and recharging our economy at home.  With the right policies, millions of green jobs will be created, strengthening our economy, international competitiveness and nation's infrastructure.  The longer we wait to tackle energy independence and carbon pollution, the larger the economic and social costs of adapting to climate change will grow.  Our time of renewal is now, and I plan to continue pushing the most effective policies to create a cleaner, more diverse and secure 21st century energy system.

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