Statement of Senator Jim Jeffords
McCain/Lieberman Global Warming Amendment Mr. President, in my many years of public service, I have always tried to push our national government forward on a greener, more sustainable path. That is the path that Vermont has chosen and that is the way that seems the most sensible to me. I have worked hard to promote recycling, efficiency, renewable energy, alternative fuels, conservation and, in general, the wise and sensible use of our energy resources. I consider wasting energy a symptom of bad management and economic inefficiency. It also strikes me as an inconsiderate and irresponsible behavior that visits the sins of one generation onto the next. That is what this debate is about. What will we leave for future generations if our actions and vision are too short-sighted and wasteful? We, the United States, have wasted more energy than any country or civilization on earth, even as we have built the nation into an economic and technological superpower. America’s incredible growth through energy has not been cost-free. We are dangerously dependent on foreign sources of petroleum. Public health has suffered and still suffers from pollution from fossil fuel combustion. But, perhaps most costly in the long-run to our economy, the public’s health, national security, and the quality of life for generations to come, is our continuously growing greenhouse gas emissions. These carbon emissions are the product of our vast inefficiency in producing and consuming energy. Right now, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are at an all-time high. According to credible scientists, that level hasn’t been higher anytime in the last four hundred and twenty thousand years. The United States can take the blame for approximately 40 percent of the total carbon loading now in the atmosphere. And we’re adding more than our share every year. We have a moral responsibility to remedy that. We have a chance in this energy bill to begin making reductions in our emissions. Congress must lead on this issue because there is a tremendous vacuum in this Administration. The President and the Vice-President would prefer that we stick our heads in the sand and hope that it all goes away. Voluntary measures are useless against a problem of this scale. We must use taxes or a market-based program like a cap-and-trade program that will motivate American ingenuity and innovation. We must be aggressive in funding domestic and international programs to “de-carbonize” our energy supplies. We must use trade opportunities and negotiations to export energy-efficient American products and services. We have a choice in this bill. We can defer action, letting the problem get worse and more costly with each passing year. Or we can act now to reduce our wasteful, global warming emissions. Mr. President, my colleagues should remember that generations to come will look back at the climate votes on this bill. If we do not act responsibly, they will know who to blame for the sea-level rise that will threaten their communities, the extra intensity of hurricanes, the loss of glaciers, or more frequent heat-waves and floods. They’ll know who wasted the chance to do the right thing for them and the future. Mr. President, the Senate must adopt strong legislation that reduces our greenhouse gas emissions. No major energy policy bill will get my support without it. Thank you.