Washington, D.C. -- As House Speaker Pelosi said this morning, "This is it, the change begins." House Energy Chairman Henry Waxman and his lead subcommittee chair, Ed Markey, this morning introduced a 600-page comprehensive bill to move America simultaneously towards energy independence and a new, low-carbon energy economy. The bill represents a broad outline -- many of the most crucial details will be worked out in legislative negotiations -- but it is an incredibly powerful and hopeful sign. It comes only days after Waxman and Markey were joined by their predecessors as committee leaders, Michigan's John Dingell and Virginia's Rick Boucher, in a letter to President Obama, calling for strong legislative action on energy and climate. It's quite remarkable to see Dingell and Markey joining with Waxman and Boucher in saying:
Three imperatives -- our energy, environment, and economic needs -- drive our commitment to action. The energy imperative we face is to diversify the nation's energy supplies and reduce our foreign dependence, especially on oil from the Middle East, which imperils our national security. The environmental imperative is to protect the planet from global warming. As scientists learn about the dangers of "tipping points" in the global ecosystem and their potentially disastrous consequences, the need for decisive efforts grows increasingly urgent.
And the economic imperative is to provide an engine to drive the nation out of the recession....
And only days earlier, the United Steelworkers of America, the Laborers International Union, the Service Employees Union, and the Communication Workers of America joined the Sierra Club and NRDC in a joint labor-environmental statement of principals on energy and climate change legislation under the aegis of the Blue-Green Alliance originally organized by the Club and the Steelworkers but now expanding into a broader labor-environmental mobilizing effort.
The Catholic Church has unveiled plans to send every parish materials on climate and poverty this Earth Day. Other denominations, hunting and angling groups, and business organizations are all coming together to insist that it is time to move forward, time to create a new energy economy, time to end our dependence on dirty fossil-fuel technologies.
And support for this effort is coming from all over. The Salt Lake Tribune, for example, said, "If the plan were to meet its ambitious goals of U.S. energy independence, the creation of more than 300,000 jobs and substantial reduction in global warming, it would be a bargain.
"The dollar amounts are astonishing, but so are the problems that renewable energy could help solve."
Let's be clear: Coal and oil will not go gently into that good night; they are already fighting back viciously, and the ideologues of the reactionary right will join them. But history demands that America act now, and I think America is finally ready to answer that summons.