Statement of Chairman Joseph Lieberman
Emerging Technologies and Practices for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A Hearing of the Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection
United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
May 9, 2007
Good morning, and welcome to this hearing on emerging technologies and practices for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Today, we will examine the private sector innovations that can put America on a path to curbing global warming without forcing us to abandon our coal, give up our cars, or handicap our economy, provided the federal government sends a strong, new signal to the marketplace.
Last Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, known as the IPCC, issued a report on mitigating global warming. This report reflects a consensus reached by delegates from 120 governments. It finds that existing technologies can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions significantly over the next two decades, and that commercializing these means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions would provide the co-benefits of increasing energy security and decreasing the air pollution that directly harms human health.
The IPCC report also concludes, however, that without strong new government action, market forces alone will not lead to significant emissions reductions. For example, the IPCC finds that most voluntary agreements between industry and governments have not achieved significant emissions reductions beyond business as usual.
By contrast, an effective carbon-price signal could, according to the IPCC, realize the potential of existing technologies to cut greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors of the economy. A portfolio of existing technologies could set us on a safe emissions track if governments like ours established effective policy drivers for the further development, acquisition, deployment, and diffusion of those technologies.
The purpose of today’s hearing is to examine some of the technologies that could help fill out that winning portfolio. These innovative solutions exist today. But they need bold new government action if they are to be commercialized widely enough and quickly enough to preserve our ability to avert climate catastrophe.
The specific innovations that today’s witnesses will describe also illustrate the co-benefits that the IPCC discusses. These are technologies and practices that can enhance America’s energy security, improve public health, invigorate our economy, and improve our trading position in the world even as they preserve our ability to avoid leaving our children a world wracked by global warming.
Fortunately, some of the technologies that our witnesses will describe also demonstrate that we can curb global warming while continuing to use our abundant, reliable coal reserves to generate electricity.
I do not mean to suggest that we can get something for nothing – that action will carry no price. What I am suggesting, rather, is that all signs point to a tremendously positive net return on any large, new investment that we as a nation make in accelerating the deployment of technology to reduce global warming pollution.
Four of today’s five witnesses are executives at large American corporations: American Electric Power, Babcock & Wilcox, General Electric, Wal-Mart. These companies are titans of the energy, industrial, and commercial sectors of our economy. One of our witnesses is both a professor at one of the country’s most esteemed engineering institutions, MIT, and a principal of a company that is developing cutting-edge vehicle technology for General Motors and others.
These witnesses can speak with authority about emerging technologies that have the potential to start this country moving down a safe emissions pathway. Gentlemen, I look forward to hearing your testimony.
With that, I will invite my friend and colleague, Senator Warner, to make an opening statement.