Global warming is the most serious environmental threat facing our country – and our planet – today.
In 2006, the temperature in the U.S. was two-point-two degrees warmer than the average temperature throughout the 20th century, according to NOAA.
This is not an anomaly. It is a recurring fact. The last seven five-year periods were the warmest on record.
The major reason for the increasing temperatures is greenhouse gas emissions.
If we are going to stop global warming, we need to drastically reduce our emissions.
That is why Congress must tackle this problem, and the bill introduced by this Subcommittee’s leadership is a good beginning.
I appreciate that several recommendations I made to Senators Lieberman and Warner have already been included to make this bill stronger, such as language to allow states like New Jersey to set higher emissions reduction targets than the federal government.
Another change sets a date certain to end the practice of the government giving away free permits for companies to emit greenhouse gases.
While these were positive steps, more work remains to be done to make this legislation stronger and to heed the call of scientists.
First, this bill could reduce emissions by as little as 13 percent by 2020 and 51 percent by 2050, according to the National Resource Defense Council.
Yet, the leading scientific experts believe we need to cut our emissions more than that.
We must aim for a strong target of 15 percent reductions by 2020 to get us marching down the right path soon. If we meet those short-term targets, the likelihood of success over the long-term is much better.
I am also concerned that this bill does not become a true “polluter pays” system until 2035.
Until then, our government will give free permits to companies to emit greenhouse gasses instead of requiring them to buy and sell all permits on the open market.
We need to transition completely to a polluter pays system sooner than 28 years from now. And we should allocate these permits in a way that promotes clean energy.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, while I support a cap and trade system as the basis for legislation, we can reduce our emissions even more by requiring coal power plants to use advanced technology, instead of just making sure they have enough permits for their emissions.
The development of this bill was no easy task and I applaud the leadership of this Subcommittee for moving us forward on this issue.
We have worked well together in recent weeks to make some improvements, and I hope we can do the same between now and the markup to further strengthen this bill.