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Taking Exception

What Palin Got Wrong About Energy

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By Barbara Boxer and John F. Kerry
Friday, July 24, 2009

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin put the global warming debate front and center last week with a plea to avoid the "personality-driven political gossip of the day" and focus more "on the gravity of . . . challenges" facing our country.

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We share her hopes for a substantive dialogue. But we want to put facts ahead of fiction and real debate ahead of rhetorical bomb-throwing.

Palin argues that "the answer doesn't lie in making energy scarcer and more expensive!" The truth is, clean energy legislation doesn't make energy scarcer or more expensive; it works to find alternative solutions to our costly dependence on foreign oil and provides powerful incentives to pursue cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

Palin asserts that job losses are "certain." Wrong. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and American Clean Energy and Security legislation will create significant employment opportunities across the country in a broad array of sectors linked to the clean energy economy. Studies at the federal level and by states have demonstrated clean energy job creation. A report by the Center for American Progress calculated that $150 billion in clean energy investments would create more than 1.7 million domestic and community-based jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

Palin seems nostalgic for the campaign rally chant of "drill, baby, drill." But she ignores the fact that the United States has only 3 percent of the world's proven oil reserves, while we are responsible for 25 percent of the world's oil consumption.

In fact, the governor's new refrain against global warming action reminds us of every naysayer who has spoken out against progress in cleaning up pollution.

Whether it was the debate over the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Superfund law or any other landmark environmental law, one pattern has always been clear: Time and again, pessimists -- often affiliated with polluting industries -- predicted job losses and great costs to taxpayers. Each time, our environmental laws have cleaned the water we drink, the air we breathe and the communities we live in at far lower cost than initially expected.

Take the acid rain program established in the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. The naysayers said it would cost consumers billions in higher electricity rates, but electricity rates declined an average of 19 percent from 1990 to 2006. Naysayers said the cost to business would be more than $50 billion a year, but health and other benefits outweighed the costs 40 to 1. Naysayers predicted it would cost the economy millions of jobs. In fact, the United States added 20 million jobs from 1993 to 2000, as the U.S. economy grew 64 percent.

The carefully crafted clean energy bill that we will present to the Senate, building on the Waxman-Markey legislation passed by the House, will jump-start our economy, protect consumers, stop the ravages of unchecked global climate change and ensure that the United States -- not China or India -- will be the leading economic power in this century.

By creating powerful incentives for clean energy, it will create millions of jobs in America -- building wind turbines, installing solar panels on homes and producing a new fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles.

It will also help make America more secure. A May report by retired U.S. generals and admirals found, "Our dependence on foreign oil reduces our international leverage, places our troops in dangerous global regions, funds nations and individuals who wish us harm, and weakens our economy; our dependency and inefficient use of oil also puts our troops at risk."

We do not charge that Palin wants to keep sending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas annually to import oil from countries that, in many cases, are working to harm Americans and American interests around the world -- or that she wants another nation to lead the way to the innovative clean energy solutions that will be eagerly gobbled up by the rest of the world. But those would be the tragic results of the do-nothing policies she has espoused. Our nation's approach to energy must be balanced and must provide incentives for all the available clean energy sources to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

We are already working every day in the Senate to pass legislation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create millions of clean energy jobs and protect our children from pollution. We respectfully invite Gov. Palin to join that reality-based debate -- one that relies on facts, science, tested economics and steely-eyed national security interests. Our country needs nothing less, and our planet depends on it.

Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. John F. Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Gov. Sarah Palin's op-ed, "A 'Cap and Tax' Dead End," was published in The Post on July 14.


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