Thursday morning to introduce on bills on climate change and energy subsidies.
In introducing his legislation, Sen. Sanders said:
Let me be very clear. The issue that we are dealing with today is not political. It has nothing to do with Democrats, Republicans, Independents and all of the political swabbling we see here every day. It has everything to do with physics. The leading scientists in the world who study climate change now tell us that their projections in the past were wrong. That, in fact, the crisis facing our planet is much more serious than they had previously believed. They now tell us that if we continue along our merry path, where 12 out of the last 15 years were the warmest on record, and take no decisive action in transforming our energy system and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, this planet could be 8 degrees Fahrenheit or more warmer than is currently the case. [...]Also speaking at the press conference besides McKibben and Brune were Tara McGuiness, the executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen’s energy director and David Bradley, National Community Action Foundation executive director.
The legislation that Senator Boxer and I are introducing today with the support of some of the leading environmental organizations in the country can actually address the crisis and does what has to be done to protect the planet. It can reverse greenhouse gas emissions in a significant way. It can create millions of jobs as we transform our energy
system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and such sustainably energies as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.
Nobody expects the proposals to have an easy time of it. That's because we have a Congress that is still filled with representatives and senators who refuse to accept the extensive scientific evidence that human-caused global warming is happening and others who accept the evidence but are unwilling out of cowardice or the objections of their campaign contributors to take action to slow it down or remediate the severe impacts climate change will cause or already is causing.
The legislation comes in two bills. The Sustainable Energy Act is designed to cut a long list of subsidies and tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry and extend tax credits for production of renewable energy from solar, wind and geothermal sources. The renewable credits now expire in 2014. The Sanders-Boxer proposal would extend them through 2021. That would give investors more confidence and help long-range planning that is now hampered by the fact the credits expire every two or three years.
Continue reading below the fold, to see a condensation of all the measures in the Climate Protection Act.
• Price Carbon. To help reduce current carbon 80 percent by 2050, impose a carbon fee of $20 per ton or carbon or methane equivalent, rising at 5.6 percent a year for 10 years. This would apply to the 2,869 largest polluters (oil refineries, coal mines, point of importation) covering about 85 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions
• Family Clean Energy Rebate Program. With 60 percent of the carbon fee revenue, the program would use the Alaskan model of an oil dividend to provide a monthly rebate to every U.S. resident. "This is the most progressive way to ensure that if fossil fuel companies jack up prices, consumers and families can offset cost increase on fuel and electricity, according to data from the Congressional Research Service."
• Protect Communities from Fracking. So that the carbon fee does not harm communities due to increased production of natural gas, end the exemption for fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act
• Ensure Fair Trade and International Cooperation
• Pay Down $300 billion of the national debt from carbon fee revenue over 10 years.
• Invest in Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy. With some of the revenue raised from the carbon fee, invest in efficiency and energy technologies that will "reduce emissions, create jobs, and position America as a clean-tech leader." Included in this:
° weatherizing one million residences a year, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and saving households hundreds of dollars annually;
° tripling the budget of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy in research and development;
° creating the "Sustainable Technologies Finance Program" that would, working through public-private partnerships, leverage $500 billion for investments in wind, solar, geothermal, advanced biomass and biofuels, ocean and tidal energy, hydroipower, advanced transportation projects, and energy efficiency technologies
° funding $1 billion annually in training and transition programs to move American workers into clean-energy jobs
While the legislation will, as noted, no doubt encounter serious opposition in the House and Senate, it is precisely the kind of approach that is needed. Waiting to introduce it at a time when it has a better chance of passing makes no sense. Delay is just another form of denial. Americans need to know what progressives will back when they do have the political clout to deliver. Just explaining what we would do can help gain the votes to give us that clout.