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Public Statements

Growing An Innovation Economy

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LUJÁN. Representative Tonko, thank you very much. It's very good to be here with a few of my friends this evening as we get a chance to talk to our constituency, our colleagues and maybe share some new ideas, maybe talk about some old ideas. As we've heard from my good friend from Virginia (Mr. Connolly), he talked a little bit about the act that was adopted in 1990, the Clean Air Act, which was strangely in response to a campaign pledge from a Republican President that we had. This was a campaign pledge that was made during the 1988 election. We hear sometimes from some of our colleagues that the idea of a cap-and-trade system is this new idea, that this is something that hasn't been talked about ever before. Well, when you go back to what the American people were hearing back in 1988 and after the adoption of the Clean Air Act in 1990, what we heard from our Republican presidential candidate at the time was that there was a pledge to curb acid rain, and it could be fulfilled with the world's first emissions cap-and-trade system. And that resulted in what we now know to be the address that we moved forward with, the address to clean up acid rain. What's interesting with that is we're reminded by our friend Mr. Fred Krupp that within 5 years, the U.S. utilities cut emissions 30 percent more than the law required. They went over and beyond what was required from them because it made sense. But not only did it make sense, they found a way to utilize this to generate revenue. Even while increasing electricity generation from coal by 6.8 percent and reducing retail electricity prices, during that same period the U.S. economy grew by a healthy 5.4 percent. Even though there were dire predictions that the program would eventually cost more than $6 billion a year, it was less, 30 percent less, between $1.1 and $1.8 billion. This was all in response to making sure that we were able to go out and address some of the concerns with some of our lakes and some of our rivers and our streams and our national parks.

I have a lot of friends back home that like to fish, and I know that we all have a lot of constituents that are outdoors people, that depend on being able to go out and take their kids out to show them what the outdoors is all about. The enactment of the legislation in 1990 was a direct result from being able to protect some of these things, but we have to look a little further back when we talk about history.

In 1977 under another Republican administration, when we talk about the Clean Air Act being put together, under two Republican administrations where we saw people working together, where we as a Congress could come together and reach across the aisle and work with the President to do what was right. And as we hear from our friend, Mr. Schauer from Michigan, we talk about the importance of job creation. Comprehensive energy reform, there's no doubt that it will create millions of jobs, millions of clean energy jobs, many in New Mexico, many in Michigan and Virginia, New York, the Midwest, the South, the East and the West, throughout the United States. And this has been an area where we've always led, and there's no reason we can't take advantage of moving forward strong policy to create good jobs that will make a difference.

I would like to point us to something that China is doing. We heard from my friend Mr. Connolly about this. Doing nothing means that we fall further behind China and Europe and even Japan and Germany as we talk about the progress that they've made in this specific area. But China alone is investing $12.6 billion in a clean energy economy every hour. Nearly 40 percent of China's proposed $586 billion stimulus plan, $221 billion over 2 years, is for clean energy investments, including an

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advanced electric grid. We hear about what China's doing

and India's doing. Well, they're investing in this area. And if we, as a country, don't get ahead of this and create jobs and make investments in clean energy and do what's right for the American people, we're going to fall behind, and we can't afford to do that.

I look forward to being here this evening and visiting with our friends as we get a chance to talk a little bit more about the benefits, about the positive things we can do and the importance of coming together, as was done in 1990, as was done in 1977, to make sure that we're able to pass and adopt responsible legislation that will make a difference for the American people and for this great Nation of ours.

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Mr. LUJÁN. Mr. Tonko, we talked a little bit about my background. Before I came to Congress, before I was given the great honor of serving in this Congress to so many wonderful people, I did serve on the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. And we were one of many States who adopted a renewable portfolio standard, standards which will require utilities to generate more power from the sun, from the wind, being smarter about the way we generate power. And when we talk about the American Energy and Security Act, about making sure that we are looking after our Nation's security, when you look at the chart which shows so much of our Nation's money, billions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars going to other nations that aren't friends of the United States, we have to wonder why aren't we moving forward with the commitment and will to bring about the change that is required? This provision includes enacting a provision where we will encourage more renewable generation across the United States. It is going to encourage more energy efficiency standards and building standards that will make a difference.

This last week, on Monday, before I came back to Washington, I had the great fortune of visiting a new high school being built in one of the cities in my district, in Rio Rancho. It is a large high school, but it is a high school that was built with energy efficiency in mind, with smart building standards. And the increase in cost is actually going to be regained, and it is going to be seen within 5 years, a 5-year paydown of the investment. This means better lighting for our students, a stronger learning environment. It is what is right. And that is what this act will do.

We heard about the importance of education. In New Mexico, we have a few colleges, the National Wind Research Center in Tucumcari, at the Mesa Lands Community College, working on wind research and turbine research in agricultural parts of my district where ranchers and farmers are excited about seeing these wind turbines pop up around New Mexico. This is the kind of investment that we are talking about, job opportunities and revenue streams that will make a world of difference: the investment that is being made in our laboratories where the gains can be made to solve the storage problem so we can see more robust generation when it comes to renewables, job creation, investments in science, investment in our schools and how we can go tie that education gap together from K through 12 to college, to our laboratories, bringing everyone together.

This last week we heard from the President, and he said, ``I have spoken repeatedly of the need to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity.'' That is what we are talking about here, a foundation for new prosperity. We, as a Nation, will lead again. We will work with the rest of the world. We will make sure that we are providing job opportunities for Americans from sea to shining sea, as the President likes to remind us.

For the first time, what is interesting to my friends here this evening, my colleagues, for the first time we have utility companies and corporate leaders who are joining, not opposing, environmental advocates and labor leaders to create a new system of clean energy jobs. We were reminded of this from our President last week. It is amazing what can happen when people come together.

We have an opportunity now, again, to act responsibly for the American people to come together, come together as a Congress and make a difference, come together and create more jobs, invest in science, technology and change the way that we do things, but change them for the better.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. I wonder if my colleague will yield for a question.

Mr. LUJÁN. Absolutely, Mr. Connolly.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. I heard your eloquence and I heard you talk, Mr. Luján, about the high cost of oil imports. Sometimes I want to have us focus on the other side of the equation, what are the costs of inaction? You talked about how, in 1977, President Jimmy Carter came into office, but prior to that, in the Nixon-Ford years, the United States had committed itself to energy independence. Is that not correct?

Mr. LUJÁN. That is absolutely true, Mr. Connolly.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. And how did that turn out for the United States of America?

Mr. LUJÁN. We saw what resulted after the adoption of the act in 1990. The economy actually increased from about 5.4 percent. We saw growth in the economy. We saw utility companies making wise decisions in investments and creating jobs.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. But with respect to energy independence, is it not true, Mr. Luján, that instead of creating energy independence that the United States became more energy dependent on foreign oil?

Mr. LUJÁN. That is absolutely correct.

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Doesn't that underscore the reason and the imperative nature of why we need to take action now?

Mr. LUJÁN. If we, as a Nation, don't take action now and utilize these dollars to invest in American jobs, in solving our dependence on foreign oil, talking about our Nation's security, we couldn't be more right. And as we talk about our Nation's security, what has happened to the economy, we need to create the jobs to be able to provide opportunities for the American people, make sure that we are changing the way we are going to generate power, move power, consume power, be smarter about the way that we do things. It is all wrapped up in one, Mr. Connolly, and I couldn't agree more.

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Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Mr. Luján, I just want to echo, if I may, what you just said about national security. It is another cost to the United States. Every year, because of our growing appetite for foreign oil, we are putting money into the hands and into the pockets of many countries who don't necessarily have American interests at heart. Is that not true?

Mr. LUJÁN. That is absolutely true. And we saw with some of the charts that Mr. Tonko was sharing with us, as we see what is happening with the U.S. imports of crude oil, we see what is happening, you go back to the time period we are talking about here, Mr. Connolly, you go back here to 1977 and you see some of the changes that resulted and going forward with what has happened with imports and what can be done here. What didn't we learn when we saw these increases and spikes starting in the 1970s there? We have an opportunity to learn and to make a difference here.

And I know that Mr. Tonko had the other chart there, and I will yield to Mr. Tonko to be able to explain what has happened with the dollars again.

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Mr. LUJÁN. Mr. Tonko, I would be remiss if I didn't include the faith community. They came together and they wrote a letter to the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the National Council of Churches USA, the United Church of Christ, Justice and Peace Ministries, and the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society. They said, ``The American Clean Energy and Security Act lays a necessary foundation to begin addressing the global climate crisis. We urge you to oppose any attempts to further weaken the bill as it goes through committee and continue moving this legislation forward while working to strengthen key provisions and ensure a just and sustainable future for all of God's Creation.''

Understanding how we can work together again, Mr. Tonko, it is truly amazing, and it is great to see that we can come together to get great things done.

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