January 22, 2010
Following the election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate this week, the White House said it would focus more closely on jobs and the economy. The first place the Obama administration and Congress needs to look is in the climate and clean energy sector. There is no better short or long-term antidote to America’s moribund economy than passing a climate and energy bill. The House version of the bill passed in June 2009. The Senate version was approved in November by the Committee on Environment and Public Works. Both versions limit carbon pollution, accelerate development of clean alternative energy sources, and provide authentic treatment to what President George W. Bush called America’s addiction to imported oil.
Those of us who work in the climate action and clean energy trenches know how useful a stimulus plan that focuses on the low-carbon economy can be. Before the recession, clean energy was the fastest growing industrial sector in the country. Last June, a study by Pew found that from 1998 to 2007 jobs in the clean energy sector grew 2.5 times as fast as job growth in the overall economy. Pew researchers found nearly 70,000 businesses and 770,000 American workers involved in building, manufacturing, designing, installing, studying, and selling the goods and services of an industry that will help solve climate change and is essential to American competitiveness and prosperity.
There is no clearer path to save the planet and the national economy than enacting the new climate and energy bill. We understand the challenge. The fossil fuel industry’s financial might is readily apparent, whether it’s funding think tank projects to deny the credibility of climate science, or supporting lawmakers who actively oppose climate action. This week, for instance, a Senate resolution introduced by Republican Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski to halt the EPA’s December decision to regulate carbon dioxide attracted 36 Republican and three Democratic co-sponsors.
What makes the Murkowski resolution so unfathomable is its cavalier reckoning with the new fundamentals of economic success. America thrived in the 20th century on this basic economic fact: The more fossil fuel we used the richer we became. America is struggling in the 21st century because the more fossil fuel we use the poorer, more insecure, and more threatened we become.
Our task this year in the climate action community is not only to convince more Americans that the most direct path to new jobs and business growth is a cap on carbon and clean energy investment. It’s also to help the White House and Congress achieve it.
Talk to you next week,