Chairwoman Boxer, members of the committee, I thank you for holding this important hearing to examine the global climate change debate and to train our minds on possible solutions.
For too long, the climate change debate has been a niche issue, pitting implacable skeptics against so-called “green idealists.” Yet, safeguarding the environment should not be viewed as a zero-sum decision, where limited resources may be diverted away from programs that more directly impact our immediate well-being. To the contrary, the environment and energy security are interlinked priorities, the advancement of which increases the welfare of all Americans. Conversely, the deterioration of either will harm our national security interests, economic well-being and our way of life. Both priorities also have many of the same solutions.
Current trends are endangering the priorities of our foreign policy. High prices and booming demand for oil are enriching some authoritarian regimes, which use revenues to repress democracy and fund terrorism or demagogic appeals. As we attempt to lift developing countries from poverty, high oil prices also dull the effect of our foreign aid. Without a diversification of energy supplies that emphasizes environmentally friendly energy sources that are abundant in most developing countries, the national incomes of energy poor nations will remain depressed, with negative consequences for stability, development, disease eradication, and terrorism.
Additionally, the burning of these fossil fuels has greatly increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that could cause major changes in the earth’s climate. Climate change will bring more droughts, floods and other weather calamities. Pests and disease will spread into new regions of the world, threatening public health and economic growth and making these areas more prone to conflict.
The interlinked challenges of global health, energy security, democracy promotion, and extreme climate change should be addressed in a comprehensive way. In my view, there are at least four components in devising such a strategy.
First, America must radically reduce its reliance on oil, with an emphasis on transforming the transportation sector. In 1999, when a barrel of oil was just $20, I joined former CIA Director Jim Woolsey in warning that our over-reliance on petroleum made it more difficult for America to act responsibly in the world to safeguard peace, security and prosperity. Dr. Woolsey and I advocated the development of cellulosic ethanol as an alternative to petroleum for transportation fuel. In terms of environmental impact, cellulosic ethanol’s advantages over gasoline substantially outweigh its disadvantages.
Today, President Bush and a large bipartisan coalition in Congress support the production of more biofuels like ethanol. We must now put in place the economic incentives to ensure that all cars and trucks can burn these fuels and that filling stations readily provide them.
Second, the United States needs effective programs that harness market forces to prod carbon constraints and cuts. Such programs should include a carbon trading mechanism. Last year, I listed my farm in Indiana on the Chicago Climate Exchange to set an example for farmers and foresters in my state and throughout America. The hardwood trees on my farm sequester 3,400 tons of carbon, which have market value on the exchange despite the lack of a broader cap and trade system in America. Changes sometimes come slowly, but I am hopeful that the Chicago Climate Exchange will illustrate how easily market value can attach to the most rudimentary of carbon reduction efforts.
For example, the exchange mechanism could be utilized by turning unused farmland into tree farms that sequester carbon while providing farmers with extra money. Or, farms could be used to grow grasses, which are then converted into cellulosic ethanol. I was pleased to learn of farmers in Iowa who use no-till cultivation practices—thus keeping carbon in the ground—and have subsequently placed their farms on the Chicago Climate Exchange. In short, American farmers could become the vanguard in using market forces to the benefit of both the environment and the pocketbook.
Madam Chairwoman, I would ask consent to submit into the record a report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change entitled “Agricultural & Forestlands: U.S. Carbon Policy Strategies” in which Professor Kenneth Richards of Indiana University discusses in further detail strategies for greenhouse gas sequestration in agriculture and forestry.
Last October, I had the privilege to meet several energy entrepreneurs on a tour through Indiana. One dairy farm I visited was designed to capture methane gas from feedlots to power the farm. The captured methane, which would otherwise be released into the atmosphere as a potent greenhouse gas, will eventually be sold to a nearby ethanol plant. Completing a remarkable cycle, the distillers dry grains—a byproduct of ethanol production—will be returned to the farm as cattle feed. Such exemplary innovations not only improve our nation’s net energy position, but generate new revenues and less waste in agriculture.
These innovations could create the foundation for an entirely new business model for rural and small town America: by utilizing crops and agricultural waste for fuel, American agriculture could reinvigorate itself, while simultaneously alleviating our energy dependence.
Third, America needs to carry out coordinated and sustained energy diplomacy with our partners abroad. Just as securing our energy requires international agreements and cooperation, so too does securing our environment. As China, India, Brazil, and other industrializing countries come on line as major energy consumers, they will increasingly become a source of global climate change and environmental degradation. It is in our interest to coax these countries into international environmental frameworks by actively participating in the agreements ourselves. For this reason, I have co-authored with Senator Biden S. RES. 30, which calls on the United States to pursue agreements under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Fourth, America must ready itself for the security ramifications of energy dependence and climate change in the international political sphere. As a preliminary step, I authored and the Senate approved a resolution that calls upon the United States to lead discussions about the role NATO could play in energy security. The resolution also instructs the President to submit a report to Congress that details a strategy for NATO to help in the development of secure, sustainable, and reliable sources of energy, including contingency plans should current supplies be put at risk.
In a speech I delivered in advance of the NATO Summit in Riga, Latvia, I urged NATO to consider invoking its mutual defense commitment in case of an energy cut-off affecting a NATO member state: an attack on one may require a response by all. Any such threats to America’s energy supplies could be greatly reduced by focusing on sustainable fuels and preparing for supply disruption.
We must also develop strategies for dealing with environmental calamities related to climate change. Soybean rust has already migrated from tropical areas to the detriment of crops as far north as Indiana. The spread of disease or pest infestations could likewise cause political, economic and social turbulence throughout the world.
Solving these challenges will require a stronger commitment by our government to scientific research, policy innovation and diplomacy. It will require Congress and the Executive Branch to come together in ways that inspire Americans rather than divide them. I believe that we have many opportunities for furthering this work in this Congress, and I look forward to working with my Colleagues to do so.
Thank you, again, Madam Chairwoman, for calling this timely hearing.