The stakes on clean-energy legislation

A study from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy puts the lie to the wild predictions from partisans that the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act will end up costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year in extra energy costs. 
“This revised analysis directly underscores the important contribution energy efficiency provisions make towards keeping the costs of a cap-and-trade program to modest levels due to reduced energy use and reduced need for expensive new power plants,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the Washington, D.C.,-based nonprofit, which estimates savings from Waxman-Markey for the average household of $1,050 a year by 2020 and $4,400 a year by 2030.

Which makes sense, of course, since Waxman-Markey is at its heart an energy-efficiency bill, updating efficiency standards for appliances, buildings, factories and power plants that projections have reducing domestic demand for oil 1.4 million barrels a day by 2030, an amount equivalent to about 7.5 percent of what we currently consume on a daily basis.

The bill also significantly sets a 20 percent by 2020 renewable-electricity standard that will push development of solar, wind and biomass technologies, and it’s in that development that we hear the talk about Waxman-Markey being in essence not an energy bill but a jobs bill.

Make no mistake – this is a jobs bill,” President Obama said last month after the House voted to pass Waxman-Markey. “We’re already seeing why this is true in the clean energy investments we’re making through the Recovery Act. In California, 3,000 people will be employed to build a new solar plant that will create 1,000 jobs. In Michigan, investments in wind turbines and wind technology is expected to create over, 2,600 jobs. In Florida, three new solar projects are expected to employ 1,400 people.

“The list goes on and on, but the point is this: This legislation will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. That will lead to the creation of new businesses and entire new industries. And that will lead to American jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced,” Obama said.

It’s to a point for Erik Curren, the founder of the Staunton Green 2020 local energy effort and the Democratic Party nominee for the 20th District seat in the Virginia House of Delegates, that he has come to prefer the term “cap-and-invest” to the popular “cap-and-trade” moniker given to Waxman-Markey “because cap-and-invest really focuses on what we need to do to create clean energy.”

“This is not just about limiting dirty energy, but finding replacements, solar, wind, biomass. It’s a good start. It’ll get us moving in the right direction,” said Curren, whose Staunton Green 2020 effort included, like Waxman-Markey, points of emphasis on renewable energy and also the economic-development aspect that is a key driver to the whole effort.

Another driver – the national-security aspect hinted to in the formal name of the bill.

“There are some in my party who argue that the largest energy tax we’ve had in the last eight years is the war in Iraq, because quite frankly, and it’s arguable, but we’re there because our national interest is the oil in the ground,” Ohio Democratic Congressman John Boccieri said in a conference call arranged this week by the advocacy group Americans United for Change to discuss the security angle to Waxman-Markey.

“Our addiction to fossil fuels is costing us lives in the wars we’re fighting today,” said Jon Powers, an Iraq war veteran and the chief operating officer of the Truman National Security Project, on the call. “Seventy percent of the convoys that we have going into Iraq and Afghanistan today are carrying fuel and water, and as we know from the way the fights have been unfolding, we are losing lives in these convoys.

“By spending this investment, we’re not only saving the lives of the troops, but we’re also investing in the future of our nation,” Powers said.

Waxman-Markey isn’t out of the woods yet, by a long shot. The bill has moved to the Senate for consideration there, and it’s not at all a guarantee that just because Democrats have a filibuster-proof majority that the bill will emerge from its senior-chamber markup unscathed.

“Even if we didn’t have a bunch of very serious environmental problems, I would still think clean energy would be the way to go. Because we’re running out of dirty energy. It’s going to get more expensive. So we need to protect ourselves from high costs and volatility,” Curren said.

“We have got to take a stand now while we can, and we have the flexibility to do this,” Boccieri said. “What if we wait another five or 10 years? Or what if we look back to history in the 1970s, when I was a young toddler, and they were standing in lines for gas, and we had a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, and we didn’t act?

“Look where we are today. Sixty percent of our oil comes from foreign sources. The time to act is now. We can’t wait much longer,” Boccieri said.

“There’s no disagreement over whether our dependence on foreign oil is endangering our security; we know it is,” President Obama said. “There’s no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy; it’s happening. And there’s no longer a question about whether the jobs and the industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy. The only question is, which country will create these jobs and these industries? And I want that answer to be the United States of America. And I believe that the American people and the men and women they sent to Congress share that view.

“So let’s take this opportunity to come together and meet our obligations – to our constituents, to our children, to God’s creation, and to future generations,” Obama said.

 

– Story by Chris Graham



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