Better World Club

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Energy Cleanup Needs to Extend Far Beyond the Gulf

Will it Take Tar Balls on the Potomac For Washington to Stop Protecting Fossil Fuels?

(No, We Aren’t Referring to Certain Members of Congress)

Fossil fuels are a dirty business. That’s nothing new, but with millions of gallons of oil still spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the question becomes: is this a cost that we can afford?

Will the Gulf spill prove to be the catalyst for a transition to a clean energy future? Unlike the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, which birthed the modern environmental movement, the Deepwater Horizon disaster has yet to spur the calls for progressive change that we’d expect from an event causing such widespread environmental ruin and the economic crippling of an entire region of the United States. (Don’t get us started on the lax safety standards and slow response of big oil.)

Or to be more exact, calls for environmental reform are being met with the response that the economy needs more of the same???

The BP disaster is exposing how the marketplace doesn’t force producers to internalize the external costs that they’d rather impose on the rest of us. Apparently, Congressmen like Joe Barton (R-TX) are happy to let them continue to do so.

But that’s not how markets should work.

In June 2009, the House passed a comprehensive energy/climate bill, known as the Waxman/Markey Bill. After much delay, similar legislation, the Kerry/Lieberman Act has been introduced in the Senate.

The BP calamity is now increasing the momentum for the passage of the Senate bill. But the legislation as introduced has provisions to counter global warming that will be a main point of controversy and may not garner the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. The Obama administration is committed to passing a comprehensive energy bill not just in response to the Gulf spill, but that will also address climate change, encourage investment in clean energy technologies, and move the U.S. toward energy independence.

It is imperative that the Senate’s version of the energy bill mirror the House bill in establishing benchmarks for utility conversions to clean energy and putting a price on carbon emissions that recognizes the true cost of fossil fuels and provides investors the opportunities and incentives to finance new, cleaner technologies.

There are at least twenty-one states where one or both Senators are truly concerned about the issue and are personally inclined to vote for a comprehensive energy bill, but are politically wary of doing so. Help drive change by contacting your Senators and asking them to support an energy/climate bill that will put a price on carbon emissions and move the Unites States toward a clean, energy independent future.

Contact your Senator and encourage him or her to support an energy bill that puts a price on carbon emissions. A sample letter is available here.

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