Senator Craig's Floor Statement on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Bill
June 4, 2008
Posted By Marc Morano – 9:45 AM EST – Marc_Morano@EPW.Senate.Gov
REMARKS OF IDAHO SENATOR LARRY CRAIGIN OPPOSITION TO THE LIEBERMAN/WARNER CLIMATE BILL
June 3, 2008
Mr. President, I thank the managers of the bill and the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee for the debate that has gone on.
The chairman was opining a few moments ago that the debate today had been focused on gas and high gas prices and that somehow her bill was going to push gas prices even higher. That may happen. I don't know that. What I do know today is that the American consumer is fed up with $4 gas, and anything we do that would even risk pushing gas prices higher ought to make the American consumer mighty unhappy.
So I say to the chairman tonight, I am not going to talk gas prices. I am going to talk something different because I was convinced – based on my time on the Environment and Public Works Committee, and having crafted a bill that got hearings, got a markup, and was ready to come to the floor when the chairman's staff took it, turned it inside out, and brought it back to the floor in an unheard of document – I was convinced then gas prices were going to go up. I think my colleagues this afternoon who have spoken openly in opposition to this bill have strongly made the case that the American consumer is going to pay mightily for this bill that is before us, if, in fact, it becomes law.
So I am a bit puzzled when I hear the title of “Climate Security Act.” I am confident that this might protect the environment, but what does it do for people? What does it do for the consumer who is going to be put through a financial wringer, not only with their home heating bill but continually at the gas pump, if the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Boxer, has her way?
Why don't we call this bill the China-India Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, because clearly those countries that are rapidly becoming the largest emitters of greenhouse gas are going to be allowed to run free in the world economy, while we put the clamps on our economy. That is a reality we all know and to which the American consumer has already reacted. Fewer jobs in our country, more jobs in China – does that make economic sense at a time when our economy is struggling? Are just going to stick another hole in our economy and send those jobs to India or China? Or maybe we could call this the U.S. Recessions Act of 2008.
I have said it. I believe it. I have been in this Congress 28 years, and I have never seen a piece of legislation to equal this one. It is the largest single redistribution of wealth in our country ever tried by the human mind through the public policy process. To me, that is frightening – frightening for my grandchildren and their future, frightening for the Idaho economy, frightening for the U.S. economy. And what are we going to do about it? We are going to stand here and say: But it saves the world. I am not going to argue that the world isn't worth saving because I want to spend a few more years in it, but I want to make darn sure the world in which I live and my children live is a world that is at least as good as the one we have today, from the standpoint of the environment and from the standpoint of the economy and the economic opportunities that come from that economy for my children and my grandchildren.
Is this micromanagement as I describe it? We just heard the Senator from New Hampshire begin to worry about $100 billion here, $100 billion there, and $100 billion over here. And the Senator from Virginia says: Well, we have to have some money. Yes, we do, but we are talking trillions of dollars. That is $6.7 trillion. And last I calculated it, that is a lot of money, and it is going to be taken from the pockets of the American consumer, passed through government, and handed out in a variety of ways yet to be determined by the bureaucracy.
Okay, that is all I am going to say about the economy of this bill.
When we were marking up another bill that never made it to the floor, I wanted to talk about substantive efforts, such as sequestration and revitalizing the American landscape in a way where we truly could take carbon out of the atmosphere and put it into plants and put it in roots and put it in tree stumps and tree stems in a way that was true, vital, positive environmental sequestration of carbon. I was told: No, you couldn’t do that. Oh, no, no. The chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee said: No, you can’t do that; we won’t allow that kind of amendment. We are not going to have forestry in this bill. You bring your amendments to the floor, Senator Craig. And that was the way the bill was crafted.
All of a sudden, we get to the floor, and guess what is in the bill: a 10-percent carbon credit for companies that invest in foreign forests – not U.S. forests, not the Payette National Forest in Idaho, nor the San Bernardino National Forest in California where 60 percent of it is dead and dying. No, we can't do that. It has to go to the Brazilian rain forest.
I am not going to debate rain forest politics tonight, but I will tell you that if we are going to tax the American people to improve the forested landscape of America, then by darn we ought to invest it in our landscape and not in Brazil’s landscape or China’s landscape. But that is what this bill does.
With that in mind, let me talk about forestry and forestry sequestration and what happens when you have a young, vital, growing forest across America and its ability to pull carbon down out of the atmosphere and store it in tree trunks – not just for a year or two or three but hundreds of years. It is the single greatest form of sequestering carbon from the environment that man ever thought about because Mother Nature was well ahead of the game before we came along and began to mess up the environment. Yet this bill does nothing about it.
The reason I get a little excited about this idea is because in the year 2000, in Belgium, there was a climate change conference. It was the last year of the Clinton administration, and they were trying to give away our forest credits to the world to try to convince them we believed in Kyoto. I stayed up 24 hours straight to stop them from giving away our ability to use our forest to sequester carbon out of the atmosphere into foliage and trees. I won and they lost. Now the world has changed, and we can measure the reality of forest sequestration and we are not allowed to do it in a comprehensive way? That is where we are in this debate.
Fast forward with me, if you will, to where we are in the health of America’s forests today.
We have over 180 million acres of dead and dying forests in our country. They are no longer pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and bringing it down. They are doing what a tree does when it dies – they are releasing it back into the atmosphere.
We have unprecedented rates of forest burn in America today that we haven't seen in 60 to 70 years. That is what is happening in American forests – last year, 9.2 million acres, two million of it right in my home State of Idaho. The beautiful, clear, blue skies of Idaho were full of smoke all summer. Why? Because of a forest management and policy that is now simply allowing that to happen, and because of a forest whose health is in such a state of dying, decaying, bug-killed trees, our great forests are now beginning to release carbon into the atmosphere at a higher rate.
This year alone, you would say: Well, Senator, we are not in the forest fire season in the West. No, we are not. But since January 1 through May 30, we have already burned 1.49 million acres of forested lands across our nation. We have seen them burning in Florida and other places. What are they doing? They are releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
The reason I bring this chart along tonight is because it tells the story of the tragedy of the American forest. See this line? This is a result of a history of our forests as they evolve and they grow and they live and they die. We went through a period in the late 1920s and early 1930s of climate change, where we weren’t hustling around trying to change the world. But Mother Nature was changing, and we had a dust bowl era and we began to learn about El Nino and La Nina and Pacific decibel oscillation and all the changes going on in our environment that created a tragedy in our forests as they grew dry. And we began to see phenomenal fire burns in the late 1800s through the early 1900s, up until about 1920, when our Forest Service decided to change policy and go after fires. Now, remember, fires are burning, releasing carbon into the atmosphere at a tonnage rate unprecedented, at least in man’s history.
Why did it plummet and why did forests become a sequesterer of carbon again instead of a releaser of carbon? Because we established a policy called 10 a.m. That is right – 10 a.m. in the morning. The U.S. Forest Service said that a fire that started the day before, we are going to have it out by 10 a.m. the next morning. And so we put phenomenal resources into putting out fires.
After World War II, when all the young men came home who had been jumping out of airplanes in Europe, they became smoke jumpers and dropped down on small fires and put them out. And the era of the smoke jumper in the U.S. Forest Service was born.
And what happened? It is right here on the chart. Forest fires plummeted, down to a period in 1945 on – 1950s, 1960s – in which we simply weren't burning. We were putting out fires. And our forests became a net sequesterer of carbon.
Mr. President, while the Senate majority leader is still on the floor, I want to talk about a fire that happened in his State just a few years ago because I was directly involved with that Senator in recognizing the dead and dying conditions of the Tahoe Basin in both Nevada and California. He came to the committee – the committee that I chaired at the time – and said: We have to fix this problem. A lot of people live in that area. And we did. We sent money out to the U.S. Forest Service to get in and change the character of that dead and dying forest. But the courts and the environmental groups would not allow it to happen. Lawsuit after lawsuit stopped it. And a year ago, the Tahoe Basin burned – 3,100 acres, 250 homes, and what is more important, or as important, 140,000 tons of carbon released into the atmosphere.
Do you know the second largest releaser of carbon into the atmosphere, after coal-fired utilities? Forest fires – the second largest releaser of carbon into the atmosphere. Yet this bill does nothing about it except give money to Brazil to save the rain forest because it is a popular environmental issue. That is what this bill is about – the politics of the environment – not the reality of the circumstances in which we all live, in which the Senator from California nearly saw the entire San Bernardino forest wiped out,and a Governor of her State who had to declare a state of emergency and go in and try to stop it from burning.
So if you are going to create a new world, a greener world, a cleaner world, one that has less carbon in it, you have to have a forest policy that begins to revitalize our forests, to thin them, to clean them, to change the kind of ecosystem in them that doesn't tolerate 180 million acres of dead and dying trees that will release hundreds of millions of tons of carbon into the environment.
So what do we do? Six tons of CO2 is released every time an acre burns. Six tons. Up to 100 tons of CO2 can be released per acre, depending on the number of trees within that acreage – 300, 400, 500. So that is a reality. Last year, in the 9.2 to 9.4 million acres that burned, we released the carbon equivalent emissions of 12 million passenger automobiles running for one year, or the entire passenger automobile fleet of the State of California, or somewhere close to that. Yet this bill doesn't address forestry? It doesn't address forest health? It doesn't address the kinds of things that we ought to be doing in an active management system to revitalize our forests? No, it doesn't. It is not environmentally popular to do. Environmentalists have spent the last 20 years shutting down our forests.
So tomorrow I will bring a comprehensive amendment to the floor to attempt to add to this bill, to get us back into the business of forest management, healthy forests, revitalizing our forests, and, hopefully, over time changing the ecosystem of our forests in a way that we don't burn 10 million acres a year and release hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. And this can be done at very little cost. You don’t have to have a cap-and-trade scheme that pours trillions of dollars into it.
That is what we will talk about tomorrow. Gas is today. Let’s talk about trees tomorrow, one of the greatest storers of carbon, one of the greatest sequesterers of carbon in the world today.
I yield the floor.