Senator Barbara Boxer
Remarks to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce
October 30, 2008
(Remarks as prepared for delivery)
I am so pleased to be here, and to have the chance to speak with you.
Today we face tremendous challenges as a nation. The financial meltdown is threatening Americans' economic security. Millions of Americans have lost their homes to foreclosure or their jobs to the economic downturn. Since the beginning of 2007, 274,068 homes have been lost to foreclosure in California alone.
The overall unemployment rate in September was 6.1 percent, while unemployment among construction workers was 9.9 percent. In California, the unemployment rate is 7.7 percent. We are in a recession - the question is how deep and how long a recession it will be.
Yesterday, I gave a speech in San Francisco about investing in infrastructure to revitalize our economy.
Our critical infrastructure that we need to keep our economy moving is in need of investment. Collapsing bridges, crumbling highways, and failing levees have all been in the headlines recently.
I believe these challenges represent real opportunities, not just to rebuild America's infrastructure, but also to jumpstart our economy.
The good news is that we can start addressing these infrastructure and job challenges right away, as many projects are ready to go.
The Department of Transportation estimates that every $1 billion of Federal investment in transportation supports approximately 35,000 U.S. jobs.
Spending targeted to infrastructure will create jobs here in America that cannot easily be exported. Construction would be occurring here in the U.S. and would utilize materials made primarily here, such as aggregates, construction machinery, asphalt, and cement.
The report of the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission states that we need to invest a minimum of $225 billion annually over the next 50 years at all levels of government to bring our existing surface transportation infrastructure to a good state of repair and to support our growing economy. Combined, our states, our cities and the federal government are currently spending 40% less than that amount.
And we must also shore up our nation's water infrastructure.
I was proud to work with my colleagues on legislation to provide a $37 billion boost to our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure-the Water Infrastructure Financing Act. As Chairman, I moved this bill through my Committee this year, and reported that legislation to the Senate floor for consideration. Hopefully this bill will move toward passage early next year.
Additional investment in our nation's water infrastructure is more than just an investment in America's public health and safety-it is also supports jobs in communities across the country.
I also want to tell you about an important victory for our nation's infrastructure this Congress-enactment of the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 (WRDA)-the first WRDA enacted in 7 years. We were able to successfully override President Bush's veto of this measure, which includes protections for New Orleans and other areas hit so hard by Hurricane Katrina.
WRDA authorizes Army Corps of Engineers water projects. While SRF is primarily focused on water quality, WRDA is primarily focused on flood control, navigation, and environmental restoration projects-and they are incredibly important for our economy.
We need to pass another WRDA. America's port economy alone is responsible for 5 million jobs. If our waterways aren't maintained, ships can literally stop in the undredged waters.
Investments in these areas will substantially boost the economy and create jobs.
The Environment and Public Works Committee will not only play a role in the economic recovery effort because of our responsibility for infrastructure - including roads, bridges, drinking water and wastewater systems, and flood control. The Committee will also play a crucial role in the fight against global warming, and the related creation of millions of new green jobs.
CREATING GREEN JOBS:
I believe strongly that when we address the threat of unchecked global warming by investing in clean energy technologies and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, we also have a recipe for economic recovery.
Right here in Oakland, we see exciting leadership from Mayor Dellums and Congresswoman Barbara Lee and others who are committed to fighting economic hardship and global warming at the same time. They are champions for training programs in green construction techniques, solar installation and energy efficiency.
Efforts like Van Jones' "Green For All" campaign are another example. The Green for All campaign is working to ensure that as many people as possible benefit from the new energy economy by advocating for job creation, job training, and other opportunities in the new green economy.
Clean energy means green jobs. Clean tech investment, including biofuels, wind power, solar, among others, has been growing rapidly over the past several years.
Nowhere has this growth been greater than in California. In 2007, there was over $1.8 billion in cleantech venture capital investment in California, nearly a 50% increase from 2006, and a huge jump from just $357 million in 2004.
A new report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimates that by 2038, another 4.2 million green jobs could be added to the economy - thanks to the alternative energy and renewable energy industries, and the benefits of energy efficiency. That could account for 10 percent of job growth over the next 30 years.
To make this happen, the Conference of Mayors report assumes that we will make energy independence and global warming top national priorities.
We made real progress in this effort during this Congress.
Last December, the Environment and Public Works Committee, which I chair, was the first congressional committee to pass comprehensive global warming legislation. The Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act established an economy wide cap-and-trade system to cut global warming pollution.
Our bill harnessed the power of the market and invested billions in clean energy, transitional help for businesses and consumers, and research and development of the new technologies that will solve the global warming challenge.
The Boxer-Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act came to the Senate floor for a historic debate in June 2008, and 54 Senators came down on the side of urgent action to tackle global warming -- up from 38 votes in 2005.
This was a new high-water mark for global warming action in the Senate, and the vote provides a roadmap for us as we work with the next President and a new Congress to tackle the threat of global warming.
The Energy Bill that became law last year also included provisions passed by the Environment and Public Works Committee that will create new green jobs.
These provisions authorize the construction and retrofit of government buildings that meet state-of-the-art standards for energy and water efficiency, indoor air quality and other environmental impacts. These provisions also authorize grants to cities and counties to make their own buildings more energy-efficient and to make our schools healthier, more efficient, safer places for our kids to learn.
Investing in energy efficient buildings not only creates employment opportunities, but also produces cost savings, and reduces global warming emissions.
By promoting clean energy alternatives and reducing carbon emissions not only will we protect our planet but we will stimulate the economy and create good paying jobs here at home.
I could not agree more with Thomas Friedman's statement in his new book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, when he said,
"...the ability to develop clean power and energy efficient technologies is going to become the defining measure of a country's economic standing, environmental health, energy security, and national security over the next 50 years."
(Thomas Friedman, Hot, Flat and Crowded, p. 172)
We know what we need to do - accelerate economic recovery.
Combating global warming, investing in energy efficiency, and rebuilding our infrastructure are central to our efforts.
We must get started together now.
Thanks to all of you for joining me here today.