Just when you thought the U.S. Senate couldn't do any less for clean energy and the environment than it's (not) done so far, we now face the real possibility of what would amount to a "stop-work order"on the 40-year-old, wildly successful (e.g., studies finding benefits outweighing costs at a 40:1 ratio), Clean Air Act.
That's right: Believe it or not, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is moving ahead with a sequel to Sen. Lisa Murkowski's nefarious attempt, earlier this summer, to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s power to protect the public health from dangerous pollutants, including harmful greenhouse gases. Just as bad, Rockefeller's proposal would keep America addicted to oil and other old, polluting energy technologies, while delaying or derailing our switch to a clean, prosperous energy economy.
Essentially, what Rockefeller is proposing would tell the EPA -- at least for two years, although we know that justice delayed is often justice denied! -- that it has to be asleep at the switch, that it must not hold polluters accountable, that it must look the other way whole Big Oil and Big Coal trash the environment. Is that the lesson the Senate learned from the Gulf of Mexico disaster? Really?
Fortunately, not everyone is so clueless as the U.S. Senate appears to be right now. For instance, in yesterday's Politico, two energy investors -- one Democrat, one Republican -- explained what's at stake in clear, compelling language:
We are not experts in vote counting or horse trading. But we do know how investors and markets will respond if Congress ultimately fails to put a market-based price on carbon. The response from capital will be brutal: Money will flow to places like China, Europe and India — and U.S. jobs will go with it.
The path to creating more U.S. jobs is simple: Pass legislation that eliminates uncertainty and levels the playing field, and investors will fund projects that create good jobs here at home. Rules bring certainty, certainty spurs investment, and investment creates jobs.
Take it from investors: Removing the uncertainty, and taking a more thoughtful approach to energy policy by putting a market price on carbon, can bring home new investments and jobs — and ensure that America leads the clean energy economy.
Instead, it now looks like the Senate not only won't be moving us forwards, but instead will be trying to move us significantly -- and disastrously -- backwards. What's truly stunning about this possibility is that, right now, the science of climate change is clearer and more disturbing than ever. Heat waves are getting worse, the ice caps are shrinking faster than ever and scientists are telling us that the world is setting new temperature records almost every month, every year and every decade. In addition, the results of our insatiable thirst for fossil fuels were demonstrated starkly and tragically, both in a West Virginia coal mine as well as in the Gulf of Mexico, on TV screens all across America in recent months. As if all this isn't bad enough, we also could run out of water.
The American people know this situation can't go on. In fact, recent polls show large majorities supporting an energy bill that would "limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy... by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like gas." In other words, this is a case where good policy -- limiting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing our national security, safeguarding public health, jumpstarting a clean energy revolution -- and good politics – strong poll results for doing just that - appear to align. Yet, the U.S. Senate appears ready to ignore both good policy and good politics, and actually move to make matters worse by gutting the EPA and letting polluters like BP off the hook.
Don’t let them do it. Call your Senators right now and tell them “hell no” to the "Let Polluters Pollute with Impunity Act.” Also, while you’re at it, call the White House and tell President Obama that, if such a measure reaches his desk, he will veto it -- no ifs, ands or buts.