Nations aggressive on climate change will be the ones that lead, and prosper

By Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)


Today we are faced with two historic challenges — a deep economic recession and the threat of unchecked global warming. But if we act now to set America on a course for a clean energy future, we can build the foundation for lasting economic recovery and energy independence as we protect our children from pollution. This is because when we unleash the American innovative spirit, we will drive economic growth and create jobs and whole new industries right here at home.

In my home state of California, which has been one of the hardest hit by the housing and financial crisis, one area that has out-performed virtually every other has been the creation of clean energy jobs and businesses.
 A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that more than 10,000 new clean energy businesses were launched in California from 1998 to 2007. During that period, clean energy investments created more than 125,000 jobs and generated them 15 percent faster than the California economy as a whole.

Nationwide, Pew found that jobs in the clean energy economy grew much faster than traditional jobs — clean energy jobs grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent, compared to only 3.7 percent for traditional jobs between 1998 and 2007.

The best part is American businesses here at home will be creating these new jobs — from building wind turbines that we can expect to export to the world, to installing solar panels on homes and businesses, to producing energy-efficient products and a new fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles.

I believe that Thomas Friedman got it right in his book Hot, Flat and Crowded, where the central theme is this: The nation that aggressively addresses the issue of climate change will be the nation that will thrive, the nation that will lead, and the nation that will prosper.

Other countries, especially China and Germany, are already building their clean energy industries. We need to lead the new energy economy; we cannot afford to wait.

Just last week, the committee that I chair, the Environment and Public Works Committee, held a hearing on this very issue. We focused on the creation of clean energy jobs here in America, and on ensuring that U.S. competitiveness remains strong, that the U.S. is the world’s economic and technological leader in the 21st century.

At that hearing, John Doerr, one of the nation’s leading venture capitalists, who helped launch Google and, told us that clean energy legislation is the spark we need to restore American leadership. Doerr predicted that the investment that will flow into clean energy will dwarf the amount invested in high-tech and biotech combined.
Mr. Doerr said: “Going green may be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century. It is the mother of all markets.”

The bottom line is this: Do we want to do what the United States has done so many times before and lead, or do we want to crouch in the corner in fear and negativity?

I believe the answer is clear — America must lead. That is why we are preparing a strong clean energy jobs bill in the Senate.

This legislation will create new jobs here at home, and it will spur whole new industries and ensure the U.S. remains competitive. It will also protect our children and our grandchildren from dangerous pollution, and put us on the path to energy independence.

Clean energy is this nation’s path toward economic leadership, a robust recovery, and a cleaner, healthier life for our families.

Boxer chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.