12/06/2007 07:30 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Our Youth is Forcing Congress to Vote Green

If you were around Capitol Hill a few weeks ago, you may have seen quite a few people with green hardhats walk by. If you were close enough, you may have also heard chants for '80% cut by 2050!' and 'Green Jobs Now!' echo across the West Lawn. You may have seen the long line of students waiting to fill up the audience for the committee hearing on energy independence and global warming and perhaps you caught MSNBC's Hardball on Monday evening, where I engaged in a lively debate with Pat Buchanan on climate change and global warming. We are taking to the streets, the airwaves, and the blogs and we're letting people know a movement is on the rise.

These events were part of Power Shift 2007, the largest youth summit on climate change, led by the Energy Action Coalition, which drew 6000 young people from every state to our nation's capital for the weekend, to give voice to the much needed - yet little reported - youth perspective on climate change to Capitol Hill.

Thousands of youth left Washington, DC poised to make sure that voice remained loud and clear on this issue, and they took to the phones, sent emails and letters, and organized throughout the country to demand that Congress take an important first step in solving Global Warming through the passage of a Strong Energy Bill. This energy bill will not avert the climate crisis, but is a down payment towards our nation's clean energy future. The bill that the house of representatives passed today includes an increase in fuel economy standards to 35 mpg, the first increase in more than 3 decades and the inclusion of an ambitious renewable energy standards. In light of overwhelming public support for clean energy and the dire need to move from our carbon based economy, the nation must shift to clean renewable sources of energy and finally Congress is taking notice. We as a generation feel its time we it is time we stopped subsidizing dirty industries of the past and time we started investing in the future and are happy to see more that 13 billion dollars in tax breaks for oil companies being repealed.

This energy bill is a start, but the the youth climate change movement that I am part of wants more. We know that with existing technology the automakers could be getting at least 100 mpg while at the same time creating tens of thousands of new, union jobs and revitalizing the American automotive industry. Our country's dirty energy consumption and greenhouse gas pollution is embarrassing. We don't need to argue over whether 15% of our electricity comes from clean energy- we need to make sure that 100% of it does. We don't need to talk about whether it makes sense or is possible to create green jobs, we need to demand a national clean energy corps with 5 million new green jobs.

We need bold political leadership and we need it now. We need a government that is accessible to it's people and not held hostage by special interests. As young people we will likely represent a quarter of the electorate in this next election and our numbers are only growing. We're in this for the long haul and we will build a better, cleaner, more just, and sustainable future. It is time for some our elected officials and corporate interests to stop standing in our way. I applaud Speaker Pelosi and all members of Congress who vote in favor of this legislation. I encourage all young people to hold their member of Congress accountable and call or e-mail to find out the way they voted, we will ensure that these members know we are paying attention.

On Hardball, Buchanan asserted that Congress was paying lip-service to the thousands of young people who came to Washington this weekend, and the millions more Americans for whom global warming is of increasing concern. I argued that the young people who took part in our lobby day - and in hundreds of events across the country as part of the "Step It Up" effort - would press Congress and the presidential candidates for bold solutions and comprehensive commitments. We applaud Speaker Pelosi for her leadership on this issue and look forward to pushing ahead to even bolder and stronger action in the future.