ENERGY POLICY ACT OF 2005 -- (Senate - June 22, 2005)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, in every generation, there are several defining moments when we have the chance to take a new course that will leave our children a better world. Addressing the threat of global climate change is one such moment.
Climate change is not just about a particularly hot summer or cold winter. It is not just about a few species of plants and animals. And it is not some far-off threat we don't have to worry about for hundreds of years.
While there are some who still argue with the overwhelming scientific evidence that details the full magnitude of the problem, the evidence is now all around us. The problem is here. And the solution needs to come now.
Since 1980, the Earth has experienced 19 of its 20 hottest years on record, with the last three 5-year periods being the three warmest ever. This is the fastest rise in temperature for the whole hemisphere in a thousand years.
Here in America, we have seen global warming contribute to the worst drought in 40 years, the worst wildfire season in the Western States ever, and floods that have caused millions of dollars in damage in Texas, Montana, and North Dakota. Sea levels are already rising, and as they continue to do so, they will threaten coastal communities.
If we do nothing, these problems will already get more severe. Warmer winters may sound good to us, but they also mean longer freeze-free periods and shifts in rainfall that create more favorable conditions for pests and disease and less favorable conditions for crops such as corn and soybeans.
As more forests and farms are affected, millions of jobs and crops we depend on could be jeopardized.
There are also health consequences to climate change. Rising temperatures mean that insects carrying diseases like malaria are already spreading to more regions throughout the world. And the reduction in ozone layer protections means that more children are likely to develop skin cancer.
Even if we stopped harmful emissions today, we are headed for a one degree increase in temperature by the year 2010.
And since we won't stop emissions today, the temperature outside may increase up to 10 degrees by 2100.
To Illinoisans watching this debate, that means your grandchildren--when they become grandparents--may see Illinois summers as hot as those in Texas, if we don't act now. And those summers in Texas will be more unbearable.
So what can we do now to protect our planet and our people from the effects of global warming? The first step is to adopt the McCain-Lieberman amendment. This bipartisan approach to addressing climate change is not only good environmental policy, it is good economic policy.
This amendment allows the market to determine the best approaches to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and rewards those with the most cost-effective approach by enacting a cap-and-trade allowance system. The revenues generated from this program will go directly to training workers, helping the industries most affected by the reductions cap, and providing the necessary funds to ensure that the United States, not China or India, is the leader in energy innovations such as coal gasification, smaller and safer nuclear plants, and renewable technologies.
Since so many people in Illinois depend on coal for jobs and for energy, and since America is essentially the Saudi Arabia of coal, I am also pleased that this amendment will specifically fund clean coal technology and allow extra allowances for coal companies that use carbon sequestration methods.
The underlying bill will provide $200 million for clean coal technology, $500 million for coal pollution technologies, and $2.5 billion for clean coal based power generation technologies.
This two-track approach--a strong investment in clean coal, coupled with providing certainty to industry so they may prepare for investment in these technologies today--is the right approach to both strengthen our economy and lead us toward the 21st century energy policy.
The United States should be leading the world in investing in existing technologies that harness coal's power while reducing its pollutants.
We now have applications to construct 100 new coal plants. Plants all over the world will get built no matter what, but if we do not make sure each one is equipped with the right technology, future generations will be forced to live with the consequences--dirtier air and dangerous climate change.
We know this country's scientific minds already have the ideas to lead the United States into the future. In this increasingly competitive global marketplace, government needs to do its part to make sure these ideas are developed, demonstrated, and implemented here in the United States, and the McCain-Lieberman amendment can do just that.
Let me make two final points. This administration repeatedly says it will base its policies on sound science.
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The science is overwhelming that climate change is occurring. There is no doubt this is taking place. The only question is what are we going to do about it.
The previous speaker, the fine Senator from Idaho, indicated that our economic growth might be hampered by dealing with this problem now. The fact is, when we look at similar strategies that were developed in passage of the Clean Air Act in the 1990s, it turned out that the costs were lower and the benefits higher than had been anticipated. Economic growth was not hampered; rather, innovation was encouraged and spurred in each of these industries.
The last point I wish to address is the point that was made that other countries may be polluting a lot more than we are. I think that is a legitimate concern, but it is impossible for us to encourage countries such as China and India to do the right thing if we, with a much higher standard of living and having already developed ourselves so we are the energy glutton of the world, are unwilling to make these modest steps to decrease the amount of emissions that affects the atmosphere overall.
If we the wealthy nations cannot do it, we cannot expect developing nations to do the same. That is why taking this important step with McCain-Feingold--is so important. That is why I congratulate both Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain for taking this important step.
I urge all my colleagues to support this amendment. I yield the floor.
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