article

07.17.09

Palin vs. the Planet

Congressman Ed Markey, co-author of a new energy bill in the House, fires back at the Alaska governor for her confusion, fuzzy math, and inaction on global warming.

The future ex-Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, decided to dip her toe in the water on the national debate over energy and climate legislation in an op-ed in the Washington Post recently. Hailing from Alaska, one would assume the Governor might have noticed the water around her is indeed rising.

While the Governor’s op-ed does not mention the words global warming, Alaska sits on the frontlines of climate change, with temperatures rising four degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years; melting permafrost is sending homes and roads in coastal villages like the centuries-old Shishmaref plunging into the sea.

I do agree with Palin that there is no shortage of threats to the American economy—and I believe that her strategy of inaction on clean energy and global warming is one of them.

In addition to threatening wildlife and food supply, thawing permafrost could cost $3.6 to $6.1 billion in damages to Alaska’s roads, buildings, pipelines, and infrastructure. If you really want to hear an Alaskan speak to the threat global warming poses to America’s last frontier, watch this video from Alaskan teen Charlee Lockwood testifying before my Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

To the Governor’s credit, she did mention global warming’s impact on her state during the presidential campaign (even if she was stumped on the science behind it). She is even on record with Sen. John McCain endorsing a solution to the climate problem—a policy called “cap and trade”—that’s right, the very same policy she now attacks in the Post op-ed.

Confused? So is Gov. Palin.

Last month, when the House passed the historic Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, a bi-partisan majority stood together to take a comprehensive approach to solving our energy, climate, security and economic challenge. This legislation invests $190 billion into clean energy technology, exceeding President Obama’s goal, and will unleash more than a trillion dollars in private-sector capital investment in clean-energy technologies. It’s time to make America the leader in the technological race for clean-energy jobs, as we can no longer afford to watch China, India and Europe take the lead in these industries.

The governor does not understand that Waxman-Markey is not a tax bill—as we explicitly rejected the carbon tax option in favor of a smart cap on pollution with price protections for consumers and businesses that will grow our economy and create jobs.

She argues for more drilling as a solution to our energy crisis. But that math doesn’t add up. The United States possesses only three percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet we consume 25 percent of the world’s oil. OPEC, in contrast, controls two-thirds of the world’s oil reserves. Geological reality, not Waxman-Markey, is what is making energy “scarcer and more expensive.”

That is why we need to develop American-made alternatives to our nation’s current foreign dependency. No matter how hard she looks, Gov. Palin is not going to find enough oil in Alaska to feed our country’s insatiable appetite for energy.

Our plan can only be compared with Palin’s proposals by omission, not commission. Here are the words she chose to omit from her op-ed: wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, efficiency, smart grid, and fuel economy. These are true America solutions to our energy problems. Solutions that will create over 1.7 million new clean energy jobs alone, solutions that will save consumers and businesses millions on electricity bills year after year.

The Governor criticizes Waxman-Markey for setting aside funds to address any temporary job dislocations that might occur as a result of the bill. But preparing for the worst case does not mean jobs will be lost. It means we want to make sure that we’re taking care of the workers of today as we prepare for the jobs of tomorrow. In fact, we expect so many new clean energy jobs to become available, that we’ve set aside more than $800 million to help educate and train workers to have the skill set needed to succeed.

So, if Gov. Palin really wants to know what the Waxman-Markey bill does, she should begin by considering the top 10 policies that would create a truly prosperous clean energy economy:

Waxman-Markey Top Ten Policies:

Invest in Clean Energy: Invests $190 billion into clean energy like wind, solar, geothermal and advanced coal technology. Waxman-Markey establishes eight Clean Energy Innovation Hubs across the country, linking our top academic institutions with clean tech businesses to get technologies from the lab to the marketplace.

Cuts Foreign Oil: Invests $20 billion in advanced fuel efficient vehicles like plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars and trucks, so that the next generation of drivers may never use a gas pump. When the bill is combined with fuel economy and renewable fuel standards already put in place, America will save more than 5 million barrels of oil a day, more than we already import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.

Reduces Carbon Pollution: For the first time, puts a cap on the carbon pollution causing global warming—reducing carbon and other heat-trapping pollutants 83 percent by 2050. The program makes polluters pay, driving down emissions over time by about 2 percent a year. American leadership on global warming will pave the way for an international deal that gets all polluters on board.

Creates Jobs, Trains Workers: Will create millions of new clean energy jobs that can’t be sent overseas to China and India, and provides $865 million in job training assistance for America’s new clean energy workers.

Builds a Smarter Grid: Encourages a Smart Grid that uses E-Chips—electricity computer chips—and other technologies in appliances, homes and businesses that will empower consumers to save money and energy using Internet and other telecommunications technologies.

Efficiency Savings: Saves consumers $69 billion annually by 2030 by making our buildings, homes, appliances, and lights use less energy. New buildings and homes will be 50 percent more efficient by 2016, and old buildings will be retrofitted with energy-saving technology. Efficiency provisions in Waxman-Markey will avoid the need to build more than 150 large power plants.

Saves Families Money: Provides hundreds of dollars in energy rebates annually to low-income families and helps all families reduce their electricity bills. Cumulative energy cost-savings would total more than $4,000 per household by 2030.

Price Spike Protection: Over 50 percent of the program is dedicated to protecting consumers from the price spikes typical of the old energy economy. It dedicates 30 percent of the program to protect families and businesses from rate spikes on their electricity bills. W-M dedicates 15 percent of the program to protect low-income families from price increases, providing hundreds of dollars in energy rebates annually to low-income families.

Funds New Technologies: Establishes a “Clean Energy Bank” to leverage $75 billion in loans to fund established clean energy technologies like wind and solar, and to breakthrough technologies that have yet to be invented.

Fiscally Responsible: The Congressional Budget Office found Waxman-Markey will not raise the federal budget deficit.

I do agree with Palin that there is no shortage of threats to the American economy—and I believe that her strategy of inaction on clean energy and global warming is one of them. We must deliver a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill to President Obama and to the American people. That is why the House bill was built with input from every region of the country and every sector of the economy. It’s time to take action. Failing to meet these challenges is no longer an option.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) chairs the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee.