Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about climate change. I appreciate hearing from you on what I believe is the preeminent environmental challenge facing our generation and sincerely regret the delayed response.
As you know, scientists have conclusively determined that an ongoing buildup of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, is causing the Earth’s climate to warm and could lead to drought, flooding, and other catastrophic natural disasters. In Washington, climate change is expected to alter the region’s historic water cycle, threatening drinking water supplies, wildlife and salmon habitat, and the availability of emissions free hydropower. In fact, researchers have found that temperatures in the Puget Sound region will rise about 2 degrees by 2050 and cascade mountain temperatures could rise 10 degrees or more by 2090. Considering these potentially serious environmental and economic consequences, I believe that the United States must urgently address this matter, in partnership with the rest of the world.
On December 19, 2007, the greenest, most important energy bill in our nation’s history was signed into law. I am proud to have helped craft the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 6), which will help create cleaner, more diverse sources of energy supply, build new growth industries that support high wage “green-collar” jobs, give consumers and businesses more affordable energy choices, and protect our environment. This landmark energy legislation aggressively boosts energy efficiency efforts by making our lighting and appliances more efficient and reducing the federal government’s energy use. In addition, a provision I authored was included which will make our electricity grid smarter and more efficient.
Under the new law, fuel economy standards will increase for the first time in over two decades to a nationwide average of 35 miles per gallon (mpg), up from 25 mpg today, by 2020 for all vehicles including SUVs and light trucks. By 2030, these measures will displace the equivalent of one-third of our foreign oil needs, save American consumers at least half a trillion dollars in energy costs, and reduce our nation’s carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount as all of our vehicles on the road produce today.
In addition to raising Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the new energy law includes mandates and incentives for biofuels to become a greater part of our nation’s total energy consumption. The bill increases the renewable fuels standard to 36 billion gallons by 2022, of which at least 21 billion gallons must come from non-food feedstocks like agriculture and wood waste. Increased energy production from domestic renewable resources will not only benefit the environment, but also provide for new jobs in the farming and forestry industries. Together, these efforts will help reduce the amount of harmful emissions – including those that contribute to global warming – while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. I am also pleased that the Energy Independence and Security Act contained my legislation banning manipulation in the oil and gasoline markets.
While I was pleased with the passage of this landmark energy legislation, there was a key provision I fought for – a tax package extending and expanding incentives for alternative energy technologies – that was removed in the face of a presidential veto and filibuster by the Senate minority. To that end, I recently spearheaded the negotiations that ended a nearly year and a half Congressional stalemate, allowing an important $17 billion clean energy tax credit package, the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 (H.R. 6049), to pass the Senate by a vote of 93 to 2. It was signed into law on October 3, 2008. These new tax incentives will accelerate our transition to a clean energy system by extending the production credit for electricity produced from renewables like wind, biomass, and incremental hydropower. For example, the current investment tax credit for solar will be extended for eight years, providing the solar industry the market certainty it needs to create 440,000 jobs nationally by 2016, which should translate into more than 10,000 permanent green collar jobs and 15,000 construction jobs in Washington state. This landmark law will also provide up to $7,500 to consumers who purchase plug-in electric cars, trucks or SUVs, make our electricity grid more intelligent, help homeowners generate their own electricity and hot water, and allow Washingtonians to decrease their energy bills and earn up to $500 in tax deductions if they install energy efficient products in their homes. I was also pleased that for the first time Congress voted to take embedded subsidies away from the mature and wildly profitable oil and gas industry for the first time and reorient our tax code to accelerate America’s urgently needed transition to a cleaner and more renewable energy system.
You may also be interested to learn that, on November 14, 2007, I introduced the Climate Change Adaptation Act of 2007 (S. 2355). This comprehensive legislation recognizes that the impacts of climate change are already occurring and will continue in the coming decades even if we begin dramatically decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions today. If enacted, my bill will require the President to develop a national strategy for addressing the impact climate change will have on our natural resources. It will also specifically require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conduct vulnerability assessments on the impacts of climate change on coastal and ocean resources, and prepare an adaptation plan for such resources. The Climate Change Adaptation Act was unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee on December 4, 2007. However, this legislation did not come before the full Senate before the close of the 110th Congress, and will therefore need to be reintroduced in the 111th Congress for further consideration
On May 27, 2008, I chaired an official Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard hearing on the Effects of Climate Change on Marine and Coastal Ecosystems in Washington state. During the hearing, I received testimony from national and regional experts on the effects of climate change on the health of Puget Sound and oceans, and the impact rising sea levels could have on Washington state communities. Washington is projected to sustain sea level rises up to two feet by 2040, which would put 56 square miles of the state underwater and affect at least 44,429 residents – more than the current population of Olympia. Also, almost half of our carbon dioxide emissions end up in our oceans, over half a trillion tons since the start of the Industrial Revolution, which is making the water more acidic. Ocean acidification is detrimental to many ocean organisms, including coral, and threatens to disrupt ocean habitats and coastal economies around the world, including Washington state’s trademark $3.5 billion fishing industry. When we combine the impact of ocean acidification with the additional climate change effects of increasing ocean temperatures, changing winds and currents, and rising sea levels, the impacts our carbon emissions have on marine environments like the Puget Sound are too devastating to ignore.
Like you, I am encouraged by growing momentum for developing solutions to climate change. As a member of both the Senate Energy and Commerce Committees, I plan to continue learning more about the science of global warming and pushing the most effective policies and regulations that could be implemented to help limit greenhouse gas emissions. Please be assured that I will work with my colleagues to ensure that we seize this opportunity to move towards creating a cleaner, more diverse and secure 21st Century energy system.
Thank you so much for contacting me to share your thoughts on this matter. Finally, I would like to keep you informed of what is happening in D.C. Every Monday, I provide a brief outline about my work in the Senate and issues of importance to Washington state. If you are interested in getting this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.
United States Senator
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MY REBUTTAL SENT TO SENATOR CANTWELL: