Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation) October 12, 2009Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
By JOHN KERRY and LINDSEY GRAHAM
CONVENTIONAL wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress
passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly
approaching zero. The divisions in our country on how to deal
with climate change are deep. Many Democrats insist on tough new
standards for curtailing the carbon emissions that cause global
warming. Many Republicans remain concerned about the cost to
Americans relative to the environmental benefit and are adamant
about breaking our addiction to foreign sources of oil.
However, we refuse to accept the argument that the United States
cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. We
are also convinced that we have found both a framework for
climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a
clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect
current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national
security and reduce pollution.
Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus
that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate
change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not
months from now — with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.
It’s true that we come from different parts of the country
and represent different constituencies and that we supported
different presidential candidates in 2008. We even have
different accents. But we speak with one voice in saying that
the best way to make America stronger is to work together to
address an urgent crisis facing the world.
This process requires honest give-and-take and genuine
bipartisanship. In that spirit, we have come together to put
forward proposals that address legitimate concerns among
Democrats and Republicans and the other constituencies with
stakes in this legislation. We’re looking for a new
beginning, informed by the work of our colleagues and
legislation that is already before Congress.
First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our
economy and national security. That is why we are advocating
aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that
cause climate change. We will minimize the impact on major
emitters through a market-based system that will provide both
flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance
without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs
Second, while we invest in renewable energy sources like wind
and solar, we must also take advantage of nuclear power, our
single largest contributor of emissions-free power. Nuclear
power needs to be a core component of electricity generation if
we are to meet our emission reduction targets. We need to
jettison cumbersome regulations that have stalled the
construction of nuclear plants in favor of a streamlined permit
system that maintains vigorous safeguards while allowing
utilities to secure financing for more plants. We must also do
more to encourage serious investment in research and development
to find solutions to our nuclear waste problem.
Third, climate change legislation is an opportunity to get
serious about breaking our dependence on foreign oil. For too
long, we have ignored potential energy sources off our coasts
and underground. Even as we increase renewable electricity
generation, we must recognize that for the foreseeable future we
will continue to burn fossil fuels. To meet our environmental
goals, we must do this as cleanly as possible. The United States
should aim to become the Saudi Arabia of clean coal. For this
reason, we need to provide new financial incentives for
companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration
In addition, we are committed to seeking compromise on
additional onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration —
work that was started by a bipartisan group in the Senate last
Congress. Any exploration must be conducted in an
environmentally sensitive manner and protect the rights and
interests of our coastal states.
Fourth, we cannot sacrifice another job to competitors overseas.
China and India are among the many countries investing heavily
in clean-energy technologies that will produce millions of jobs.
There is no reason we should surrender our marketplace to
countries that do not accept environmental standards. For this
reason, we should consider a border tax on items produced in
countries that avoid these standards. This is consistent with
our obligations under the World Trade Organization and creates
strong incentives for other countries to adopt tough
Finally, we will develop a mechanism to protect businesses
— and ultimately consumers — from increases in
energy prices. The central element is the establishment of a
floor and a ceiling for the cost of emission allowances. This
will also safeguard important industries while they make the
investments necessary to join the clean-energy era. We recognize
there will be short-term transition costs associated with any
climate change legislation, costs that can be eased. But we also
believe strongly that the long-term gain will be enormous.
Even climate change skeptics should recognize that reducing our
dependence on foreign oil and increasing our energy efficiency
strengthens our national security. Both of us served in the
military. We know that sending nearly $800 million a day to
sometimes-hostile oil-producing countries threatens our
security. In the same way, many scientists warn that failing to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global instability
and poverty that could put our nation at risk.
Failure to act comes with another cost. If Congress does not
pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration
will use the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new
regulations. Imposed regulations are likely to be tougher and
they certainly will not include the job protections and
investment incentives we are proposing.
The message to those who have stalled for years is clear:
killing a Senate bill is not success; indeed, given the threat
of agency regulation, those who have been content to make the
legislative process grind to a halt would later come running to
Congress in a panic to secure the kinds of incentives and
investments we can pass today. Industry needs the certainty that
comes with Congressional action.
We are confident that a legitimate bipartisan effort can put
America back in the lead again and can empower our negotiators
to sit down at the table in Copenhagen in December and insist
that the rest of the world join us in producing a new
international agreement on global warming. That way, we will
pass on to future generations a strong economy, a clean
environment and an energy-independent nation.
John Kerry is a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Lindsey
Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolina.