As Americans watch in horror while the worsening Gulf of Mexico oil spill threatens thousands of jobs and entire coastal ecosystems, advocates for common-sense reforms to our failed energy policies have reason to hope. This week, Sens. John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, who have demonstrated tireless leadership on this issue, brought renewed momentum for energy reform by releasing a new, comprehensive energy and climate bill, the American Power Act.
This bill is far from perfect, and will need to be strengthened and joined with other legislation before going to the Senate floor this year. For example, we must work to ensure that the final bill, among other key provisions, maintains full ability of states and the EPA to control carbon pollution and does not include incentives for new offshore oil drilling.
But the American Power Act represents a significant step in the right direction as it establishes a cap on carbon pollution which will spur innovation in clean energy technologies. The legislation also makes necessary investments in transportation infrastructure that will reduce oil consumption, strengthen communities and save consumers money.
If done right, a comprehensive proposal can help reduce our dangerous addiction to oil, create new American jobs, and cut carbon pollution, going a long way towards putting America back in control of its energy future.
That is, if our elected officials are willing to step up and lead at this critical moment.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama told a crowd in Chicago something that is worth repeating more than a year into the legislative fight to pass an energy and climate bill. "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time," he said. "We are the ones we have been waiting for."
Change for our failed energy policies will not come quickly if we cannot seize this moment of crisis to do something good. Every day the Senate fails to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation we put our economy, our national security and our environment at greater risk. Americans overwhelmingly support action on clean energy and climate. Inaction is too costly, and the challenge is too urgent.
The true cause of the Gulf Coast catastrophe is our over-reliance on oil, and the only way to prevent future accidents from destroying more of our environment and our economy is to move to clean, renewable 21st century energy sources that will never run out.
I told Huffington Post readers at the end of last year that clean energy would be both good policy and smart politics in 2010, and the polling continues to bear this out in the wake of the Gulf disaster. Just last week, a survey by President Obama's pollster Joel Benenson shows that support for a bill that charges energy companies for carbon pollution and invests in clean energy solutions has only gotten stronger. Respondents supported this legislation by a 61 percent to 31 percent margin, and by nearly two to one would be more likely to re-elect a Senator who voted for the bill. Simply put, a vote to pass a strong clean energy and climate bill should be seen as a smart move for Senators heading into November.
It has been nearly a year since the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. Now is the time for action. The responsibility now shifts to President Obama and Majority Leader Reid to work with senators from both parties to pass a strong, comprehensive clean energy and climate bill this summer that creates new jobs, reduces our dependence on oil and protects the planet for future generations.