A good first step

In a historic vote approving the American Clean Energy and Security Act, Congress has now taken the first step toward unleashing a true clean energy revolution.

President Obama and tens of millions of environmentalists, union members, veterans, people of faith, small-business people, corporate leaders, sportsmen and concerned citizens have been calling on Congress to get America running on clean energy. Congress has finally answered that call. We should be proud that both of New Hampshire’s congressional representatives, Paul Hodes and Carol Shea Porter, helped pass this landmark bill. It is now up to our U.S. senators, Judd Gregg and Jeanne Shaheen, to help strengthen the bill as it makes its way through the Senate.

While imperfect, this bill sets the stage for the dawn of the clean energy future. Its most important achievement is setting the United States on a path to reduce carbon emissions some 80 percent by 2050, a signal accomplishment necessary to preserve the planet for future generations.

It also makes strides in halting international deforestation, requires new buildings to dramatically slash energy waste, will speed the development of made-in-America electric vehicles, and provides important protections for workers, consumers and others who may be impacted by our transition to a clean energy future.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act also includes a lighting and appliance efficiency program, funding for domestic adaptation to global warming, criteria to ensure global warming pollution offsets are high-quality, energy-efficiency requirements for natural gas utilities, and limits on potent global warming pollutants other than carbon dioxide

The bill also is projected to save the U.S. more than $24 billion over the next 10 years.

It is now of the utmost importance that the Senate improve several of its provisions. In particular, a mechanism for cleaning up the oldest and dirtiest coal plants must be included in a final bill. It’s also vital that we ramp up the bill’s investments in energy efficiency, hasten our transition toward clean energy sources like wind and solar, and steer more of the bill’s investments toward the public benefit — not polluters.

Passing strong climate and energy legislation will rebuild and renew our economy with millions of new green jobs, revitalize the manufacturing sector, create the industries of tomorrow, reduce our dependence on oil and fight global warming. These new green jobs — building wind turbines, installing solar panels, renovating buildings to make them more energy efficient, constructing the Smart Grid — are jobs that can’t be outsourced.

Passing an even stronger version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act through the Senate will make the investments we need to put our economy back on the path to long-term, sustainable growth and to put millions of American workers back to work while letting our country lead again.

Jerry Curran is chairman of the New Hampshire Chapter of the Sierra Club.

Categories: Opinion