Bernard Sanders


Statement of Senator Sanders – Remarks As Prepared for Delivery
EPW Global Warming Forum
January 30, 2007

Good morning Chairman Boxer, Ranking Member Inhofe.

As you know, I have introduced S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. This legislation is the boldest effort aimed at halting global warming. Some would say that the bill goes too far; I say it doesn’t go far enough. This is because we aren’t talking about your run of the mill problem – we are, in the most literal sense, talking about the future of the planet.

Madam Chairman, I could go on and on about all of the different things the best scientists in the world have told us about global warming – I could detail the scientific community’s efforts to get policy-makers to pay attention; I could talk about US government scientists being silenced because their research wasn’t in line with the Administration’s denial of global warming; I could talk about the melting of Arctic sea ice decades earlier than previously expected; and of course I could talk about the changes in agriculture and water systems, sea level rise, new threats to public health such as increased incidence of infectious diseases like West Nile virus and malaria, and the extreme weather patterns, including more intense hurricanes, that we are told will accompany global warming, but there just isn’t enough time for me to give each of these topics the attention they deserve.

So instead, I want to focus on the tremendous opportunity that is currently in front of us as we set about to tackle the largest environmental challenge of our time. To do so I will use some of the provisions of the legislation I introduced and that is being cosponsored by the Chairman of this Committee, Senator Boxer, and by Senator Kennedy, Senator Menendez, Senator Lautenberg, Senator Leahy, Senator Reed, Senator Akaka, Senator Inouye, Senator Feingold, and Senator Whitehouse.

My bill is economy-wide, science-based, and has two main goals:
1) To stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon at 450 parts per million, and
2) To keep temperature increases below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
To meet these goals, the legislation requires that emissions be reduced to a level that is 80 % below 1990 levels by 2050 – the same reductions as required by the state of California. S. 309 describes standards for both power plants and vehicles. It also includes a requirement that 20 % of the nation’s electricity come from renewable resources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal, by 2020. Of course, there are other provisions, including one on cellulosic ethanol, but I won’t get into any of those details.

The opportunities provided by S. 309 are quite-literally revolutionary, but the concept is simple: transforming our energy habits away from polluting fossil fuels to renewables will reshape our economy and make the United States a leader in clean and efficient energy technologies—creating millions of good paying jobs in the process. Let me go into some detail here.

A national requirement for 20 % of our electricity to come from renewables by 2020 would increase our renewable power by nearly 11 times compared to current levels. In the process of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions under this 20 % requirement, more than 355,000 new jobs in manufacturing, construction, maintenance, and other industries would be created. In fact - and this is one of my favorites - truly putting our minds to developing renewables could create almost twice as many jobs as producing the same amount of electricity from fossil fuels! The addition of these jobs, a net increase of roughly 157,000, is expected to generate an additional $8.2 billion in income and $10.2 billion in gross domestic product.

We create more jobs, support the American economy, AND reduce air pollution that threatens our health and the future of the planet – why would anyone be against that?

But what would increased renewable energy mean for the average consumer, since we know that the growing income inequality in our country has put more and more pressure on our working families as they try to get by? A 20 % renewable requirement would, over the long run, reduce the bills our constituents receive every month. More specifically, by 2020, total consumer savings from lower energy prices would be $49.1 billion, with people seeing an average annual reduction of 1.8 %. Every dollar that doesn’t have to be spent on energy can be put toward something else.

Chairman Boxer, let me highlight another area where there is tremendous opportunity – energy efficiency. Using what we have in a smarter way seems so obvious, and yet, the commitment to efficiency, whether it be in our transportation or in our homes, isn’t nearly what it should be.

We all know that efficiency in our transportation sector is an utter embarrassment. China, Japan, the European Union, and Australia all leave us in the dust. My bill implements the vehicle emissions standards already in place in California and adopted by many other states, including Vermont. While the auto companies could meet this requirement through increased CAFE standards, that is not the only way. Of course, instead of focusing on making cars more efficient, most of the automakers are focusing their efforts on beating the California law in court. What a waste of their time.

When it comes to our homes, efficiency measures are two-thirds less expensive than generating and delivering electricity. Just a quick example: Energy Star compact fluorescent lights use 2/3 less energy than standard incandescent bulbs but provide the same amount of light, last up to 10 times longer, and can save a person $30 or more in energy costs over the lifetime of each bulb! In fact, if we could change 50 % of all lighting in the country to compact fluorescent bulbs, consumers could save $9 billion. And, I haven’t even mentioned how efficient lighting reduces greenhouse gas emissions: simply by putting one compact fluorescent light bulb in every home across the country, we would prevent the equivalent amount of emissions as would be produced by 800,000 cars.

It is clear that responsibly addressing global warming will not cause us economic ruin, as some like to suggest, but that it will provide for new jobs, enhance efforts geared toward greater energy efficiency, and will reduce our energy costs if we get serious about using renewables instead of fossil fuels.

In fact, it is a lack of bold vision that will financially cost us. In October of 2006, Sir Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist of the World Bank, turned the old economic arguments against taking action on climate change on their head. In a report to the British government, he writes that bold action to combat the threat of global warming will in fact save industrial nations money and that inaction could cost between 5 to twenty % of global gross domestic product. Let me repeat that: FAILURE to act to boldly curb global warming is what will cost us – and it won’t be cheap. Speaking to the issue in no uncertain terms, the report states, "If no action is taken we will be faced with the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the great depression and the two world wars."

Madam Chairman and all of my colleagues, grassroots support for action on global warming is clear. Not only do we know it from our interactions with our constituents, we also know it because over 300 mayors have committed their cities to meeting the standards described in the Kyoto Protocol. In fact, with over 54 million citizens represented, the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement provides irrefutable evidence that everyday citizens are demanding bold action. Additionally, a group of northeast states have already implemented a regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. And, we all know that the state of California has recognized the need to act on global warming and is moving forward with a tremendous program.

Everybody is moving forward – isn’t it time that the federal government be involved?

To be quite frank, while I appreciate today’s forum, I must say that the time for talk is over – it is time for bold federal action. The American public expects nothing less.