Sen. Jeff Merkley: Kerry-Boxer Sets The Stage For A Clean Energy Future

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"Sen. Jeff Merkley: Kerry-Boxer Sets The Stage For A Clean Energy Future"

Our guest blogger is Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Jeff MerkleyThe Senate is hard at work crafting legislation to create clean energy jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fight climate change. I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished on the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act so far and I wanted to let you all know about the progress we’ve made. I want to point out how critical it is that we reach out to folks beyond the blogosphere to let them know why this legislation will benefit all Americans.

We have to face the fact that curbing global warming isn’t the top priority for every American. When I talk to folks back in Oregon who may be skeptical about the scientific consensus on the threat of global warming, I take the opportunity to point out that there is a consensus among Americans when it comes to the many benefits of this legislation:

– This bill will create jobs.
— It will make our air cleaner.
— And it will reduce our dangerous dependence on oil imported from countries like Saudia Arabia and Venezuela.

These are goals we can all get behind. When Americans are presented with the choice of jobs, clean air and self-sufficiency versus a stagnant economy, dirty air and billions sent overseas to purchase foreign fuel, it’s an easy choice.

Senators Kerry and Boxer have put together an excellent framework that adds up to a comprehensive plan that would create a number of new renewable energy and energy efficiency programs. In addition, the bill includes a pollution reduction and investment program that would go beyond what the House proposed, to cut pollution 20 percent by 2020 and more than 80 percent by 2050. It will reduce dependence on foreign oil by helping cities and states plan for cleaner and more efficient transportation infrastructure that reduces the pollution coming from cars and trucks and by investing in clean vehicle technology and electric vehicle deployment.

That’s the overview of why we must pass this bill. But the details are important too:

– For the first time, states and the biggest metro areas would factor greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption into their transportation infrastructure plans, and they would plan to reduce emissions and oil dependence. You’re familiar with an environmental impact statement – this would be like a carbon-use impact statement. This is particularly significant, because we know that in addition to electrifying vehicles and using advanced biofuels, we need to be building infrastructure that gives families and workers more options for getting to work than driving alone.

— We increase the allocation for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment from 9.5 percent of allowances in the House bill to almost 11 percent. That represents a significant increase in investment and it’s appropriate because meeting our energy challenges needs to start with aggressively deploying the energy efficiency and renewable energy measures that are available right now. Within this program, we have funding for deploying large-scale renewable energy and smaller-scale technologies people can use in their homes and businesses. We include specific support for thermal energy – the often overlooked area of efficient and renewable heating and cooling technologies, like biomass, cogeneration, geothermal, and district energy. We are continuing to work on a proposal to require local electric utilities to use a portion of their allowances for energy efficiency investments.

— We also add programs to make sure working foresters and farmers can participate in solving our energy and climate challenges. We devote 2 percent of allowances to incentive programs for agriculture and forestry operations that can reduce emissions or increase sequestration – and those emissions reductions are in addition to what the pollution reduction program requires. We are also working hard to get the right definition of biomass; one that follows the best science so that expanding the use of biomass sources truly produces net reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, while ensuring that our working farms and forests can be a productive part of the clean energy economy.

We at the Environment and Public Works committee are in the middle of hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs Act right now. When our committee meets to consider, amend, and vote on the bill, as early as next week, I will be working with my colleagues to continue pursuing all these goals. And momentum is on our side. The House already acted. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee has already recommended policies on renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

As we move forward in the fight to pass effective clean energy jobs legislation, supporters of the status quo are arguing loudly against acting to build a clean energy economy. They tell us this action is too complicated and uncertain. But I don’t see it as complicated: We have a choice to either take on this critical challenge or continue with a status quo energy policy. Fortunately, more and more Americans, and leaders from all walks of life are seeing the clear choice and are joining us in working to embrace a clean energy future. Companies from Apple to Nike are standing up to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for opposing progress. Labor unions are joining with environmentalists, faith leaders are joining with military leaders, all in support of action to curb global warming, rebuild our economy, and take control of our energy future.

To me, the choice is simple and I will continue to do everything in my power to help deliver strong legislation that will get our country on the right path to a clean energy future.

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