06/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

One Small Step for Climate, A Giant Leap for Congress

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) cleared its first hurdle this week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I guess you need to be more than a little bit wonky to enjoy watching the markup on c-span, but I have to admit it was fun to see the anti-environment committee members fume and bluster as they watched a little progress happen.

And by "a little progress" I don't mean to diminish the importance of this action. Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) continue to be true champions of energy and global warming solutions. They have brought forward a very worthwhile bill. And while I see genuine and essential need for improvement in this bill, I also see affirmative progress toward important goals that has not heretofore been on the table. The benchmarks in this bill, as well as the benchmarks articulated by the President do not, in and of themselves, set goals that will be as effective as those which we need to avoid climate catastrophe. But for the first time we have a serious dialogue going that is not about whether or not to do something. It is about how much we need to do and how quickly. Congress is taking steps in this legislation to stand up to the entrenched interests of the old energy economy and do the right and necessary thing. In this regard, this bill represents real progress.

Although ACES in its current form represents incremental progress, there is a lot we need to do to strengthen it and that will require that we make our voices heard. We have to be louder and more compelling than the lobbies for coal, oil and nuclear are rich. Among the improvements we'll be looking for are:

* Pollution reductions that get the job done and appropriate oversight by the EPA to ensure programs meet their goals;
* Provisions for global warming polluters to pay for pollution so that revenue is available to assist consumers and support efficiency, renewables and other clean energy programs;
* A renewable energy program that ensures we move quickly to repower the economy
* Emphasis on the safest, least expensive and fastest solutions, particularly efficiency;
* Not investing limited public resources to further prop up sources of energy that continue to waste and pollute water resources -- in particular coal and nuclear power.

ACES represents the seed of action we need on global warming. It's up to us to grow it from here.