12/14/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The White House, the House and the Senate: a Clean Sweep for Clean Energy

On election day, voters in record numbers sent a message to the world. The United States will now be the leader, not the laggard in the race for clean energy technology and the fight against global warming. After eight years of energy policy written by Big Oil and embarrassing episodes from President Bush on the world's stage with respect to global warming, President-elect Barack Obama and stronger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will put America on a faster track to a green economic recovery that will create millions of new green jobs, help America become energy independent, and cut global warming pollution.

Let's start with changes on Capitol Hill. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who took the lead on new energy solutions and climate by creating the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, will have at least 24 additional seats in the House. Those seats would have made the difference this past summer when the Speaker attempted to crack down on oil market speculators and help consumers at the pump by tapping government oil reserves.

While the Democratic Congress achieved several major victories last year, including the first increase in fuel economy standards in 32 years and extending tax credits for wind and solar, several key pieces of energy legislation passed by the House were blocked by a handful of Senate Republicans. Their biggest push back was against passing a Renewable Electricity Standard, which would require America to generate 15 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable energy -a measure 26 states already have in place. But help is on the way. With the addition of my former House colleagues Mark and Tom Udall and several other new Democrats, the Senate is getting forward-thinking clean energy champions.

Another House victory that I hope passes the Senate in the next Congress is green building and efficiency legislation. As I mentioned in remarks last month at the National Building Museum, the building sector accounts for up to 48 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Improvements in the building sector can significantly reduce our energy needs and cut global warming pollution, all while updating our infrastructure and creating new jobs.

But for those in Congress working toward a real clean energy revolution in this country the biggest upgrade in Washington took place down the street at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After eight years with two oil men in the White House, America increased our dependence on foreign oil and the price of gas at the pump skyrocketed. The Select Committee even discovered that the office of Vice President Cheney sought to obscure the dangers of global warming from the public by refusing to act to prevent any real action to cut heat-trapping emissions as directed in the Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA.

In contrast, President-elect Obama has called for America to free our nation from Middle Eastern oil in 10 years time. An initiative that will require investments in wind and solar, reinvigorate our manufacturing sector and launch a clean tech revolution.

In his historic acceptance speech, President-elect Obama mentioned we face the challenge of a planet in peril. The climate crisis is indeed an international challenge, one that will require leadership from the United States. If we take the correct steps, America will strengthen our standing on both foreign policy and global trade issues.

While navigating energy and climate legislation through Congress will be a challenge, President-elect Obama recruited a real ace in Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. While losing Rahm is a blow to the House -- no one was more tenacious in the fight to protect consumers from Big Oil hypocrisy -- his ability to navigate Capitol Hill and his dedication to clean energy and creating American jobs bodes well for future energy and climate action.

In conclusion, both the new White House and Congressional Democrats applaud the historic young vote and volunteerism which helped propelled us to victory this election. As I witnessed first hand when thousands of students packed my global warming hearing room, the youth of today want green jobs now. We owe it to this and future generations to transition to a clean economy with all deliberate haste.