Live Q&A With Rep. Donna Edwards: Energy, Climate, And Environment

Donna EdwardsUpdate: The chat is occurring in the comments section.

The Wonk Room welcomes Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) for a live chat on climate change, energy, and the environment. Edwards has represented the Maryland suburbs of Washington D.C. in the fourth district since 2008. An advocate for mass transportation and a “leader on the environment,” she sits on the transit and environment subcommittees of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. She also serves on energy and environment subcommittee of the Science and Technology Committee, where today she questioned panelists about the costs of investing in the uncertain technology of carbon capture and sequestration from coal-fired power plants.

We’ll get to as many questions as possible that are submitted in the comments below (and here) in the time that we have when the interview begins at 2 PM, so ask away.

Q (Brad Johnson): What’s the effective way for the US government to drive industry to develop carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology?

EDWARDS: Great question and a little tricky too. You assume that the United States should be heavily invested in driving technology for carbon capture and sequestration. Today’s hearing before the Energy Subcommittee of the Science and Technology Committee illustrates the dilemma. Cost, uncertainty and risk abound. It is very clear that investing in this technology might result in reaching peak greenhouse emissions by 2015 with technology that may or may not work by 2025. We could take the same money and invest in renewables and even in technology to clean up the existing coal plants and make more of a difference by 2015.

Q (JW Randolph): Will you help us pass the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310) in 2009 by pushing the Water Resources Subcommittee and T&I Committee to hold hearings on HR 1310 and mountaintop removal coal-mining?

EDWARDS: Yes, I’m a proud cosponsor. And, you’ve put a bug in my keyboard to make the request of the committee. Get in touch with us, ASAP.

Q (Tomasso via email): You spoke in front of 10,000 young people during the Power Shift youth climate conference. What advice do you have for these people to continue the Power Shift in their home districts?

EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I never felt so much energy for action on climate change as I felt in that room. In fact we had young people from Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties in Maryland filling the room. The reality is that if young people don’t act for the earth, no one else will. That means that you must go back to every community, every congressional district, and every state to organize. We’re only going to feel the heat in Washington if we feel the heat at home — and your parents will not be the ones to drive that agenda. You will.

Q (Brad): The media has depicted global warming as a scientific debate, when the science is in. Still, people like George Will are recyling old columns and denying global warming. Why is the media still giving space to these deniers?

EDWARDS: Amazing. For most of us who have to actually make policy and spend precious taxpayer money on things that will make a difference, the science is settled. Finally, we have an Administration that also understands that this is not a science debate — it never was. This is an important conversation about making investments in research and technology and in those technologies that don’t reproduce old problems. This is true across disciplines. Tax and other investments to create incentives for renewables and disincentives for industries that continue to pollute. It’s the traditional carrot and stick — only it’s time for the federal government to carry a bigger stick because time is running out. We’re still giving tax breaks to oil and gas companies, and we gave tax breaks to people buying SUV’s — those are not policy choices that have any hope of real change for the earth.

I think the challenge for media is to use the science and the facts and for us to challenge them. I’m hopeful that while the old talking heads are still singing the “anti-science” tune, most of America doesn’t really believe it. This is the reason that President Obama did not get push back from the public about the significant investments on energy and climate in the Recovery and Reinvestment package — aka, stimulus.

Q (Anders): I’m curious about the consensus building of the need for quick action following the failed launch of the OCO which was intended to launch a few weeks ago. Is there a need to fill a gap with an immediate monitoring capability?

EDWARDS: The OCO launch failure was a real disappointment. That failure does not end our immediate responsibility and obligation to step up monitoring capacity, even looking at additional ground monitoring systems. I fear that this could cause more consternation on the fiscal end as many continue to look at these projects as largely science experiments than necessary evaluation and planning tools. Still a lot of work to do with our friends in the Congress!

Q (A Siegel): When do you plan to have a town forum with Van Jones, (soon to be) from the White House, about the potential for Green Jobs?

EDWARDS: Look, my friend, Van is invited to come to Maryland’s 4th District at any time. I’ll work on it. In fact, it might be easier to get him here once he’s on this coast. Van’s work actually inspired me to get a provision in the stimulus package for green jobs training at Job Corps centers around the country. It’s a grant program that will be administered by the Department of Labor — Secretary Solis is our green jobs heroine from the Congress — it’s a great way to dig deeply into communities to make sure that some of our most challenged communities get the opportunity to participate in the growing green economy.

Q (Brad): Billionaire Warren Buffett, the Wall Street Journal, and Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers are criticizing President Obama’s proposed cap-and-trade system as a “regressive tax.” What’s your response?

EDWARDS: I think President Obama has yet to propose a true cap and trade system. The fact is there must be real incentives and real penalties for carbon emissions — no middle ground on this one. We need to work on the President and stand up to the industries that are not letting up on this. Here’s the problem — either we dramatically reduce carbon emissions — with a price paid for continued “dirty” practices, or we won’t reduce at all. The question of regressive, is regressive for whom — I think it all depends on where we place the burden. The price should be paid by polluters and the resources placed in communities for renewables use, smart grids,green building, green infrastructure, wetlands replacement, conservation. We can shift benefits and burdens so that poorer communities benefit and are not burdened.

Thanks Brad and everyone for all your questions. I hope to be back again soon.

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