Tentative Steps on Alternative Energy
Last week the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the most ambitious energy and global warming legislation ever debated in Congress. That is very good news and a good first step. Of course, since Congress has never been anything close to providing leadership in the areas of alternative energy and climate change, the comparison to past non-action doesn’t mean much.
The other action last week that was a good first step was the announcement by President Obama that a deal had been made with auto manufacturers to impose new mileage and emissions standards for all cars and truck sold in the United States starting in 2012. While this is very good, it is incremental improvement towards a necessary elevation of mileage standards if we are to gain independence from foreign oil, really lessen oil use and resultant greenhouse gas emissions.
A growing number of energy, environmental and climate scientists have been providing evidence that even if humanity stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, there would still be an increase in CO2 particles per million in the atmosphere during the next several years. So complete stoppage would only start to slow this upward trend. That is why incremental decreases in fossil fuel consumption will not end or alleviate the global climate change dynamics it will only slightly temper them. All said, the new mileage and emissions standards are certainly a step in the right direction. A step that should have been taken a decade ago, so this is just playing catch up.
It will be very interesting to see how forcefully President Obama will “stand up to the special interests” as the House bill moves its way through Congress. The fundamental reason that the U.S. has no alternative energy policy and is so dependent on foreign oil is the power of the entrenched special interests and their lobbyists. The federal government has bowed to the agribusiness and petroleum special interests for decades. This new bill will directly challenge them.
A majority of Americans want to lessen our dependency on foreign oil. A significant percentage of Americans want an increase usage of alternative energy. A majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and pollution. If Congress represents the American people and not the special interests then this bill will pass. If Congress does not pass, or greatly dilutes this bill, then we will know they vote not for the people but the lobbyists. If President Obama stands true to his campaign promises then he will make this a fight and will clearly hold members of Congress accountable for how they vote.
The nations of the world will meet in six months in Copenhagen to discuss the next steps to be taken regarding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. If there is to be any progress globally, it will be imperative that the U.S. take a leadership position. It will be difficult to do so if the U.S. Congress and the U.S. President cannot deliver the bill that was approved in committee last week. In order to bring China, India and other countries to the table for serious discussions the U.S must lead by example.
The two actions taken last week are to be celebrated if you believe in the need to lessen the use of fossil fuels and in the incredible wealth creating opportunities of alternative and renewable energy. The paradigm shift that must occur with energy is right before us and is inevitable. It will be interesting to see if 2009 is the year the U.S. federal government finally moves toward a sane, clear and forceful energy policy. A policy that will let us become energy independent as a country, and allow the long-term investment of capital so essential for the innovation and resultant incredible wealth that will be created in the fields of alternative and renewable energy.