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Public Statements

The Dynamics Of Earth Day

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HOLT. Remembering 40 years ago, you and I are old enough to remember when tens of millions of Americans joined together in what was at the time a very visionary day, Earth Day, where Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, drawing from Wisconsin's own

Aldo Leopold, who had developed an ethic of the land, and he said, ``Earth Day is a dramatic evidence of a broad new national concern that cuts across generations and ideologies. Our goal is not just an environment of clean air and water and scenic beauty. The object is an environment of decency, quality, and mutual respect for other human beings and living creatures.''

It was really very visionary. But what resulted from that were specific bills, solid legislation, these bills that have moved the country along. So it is not just soft-headed, warm-hearted embracing of the wilderness. It was scientific engineering expertise brought to cleaning up the land and the water. And since Earth Day in 1970, laws have been passed such as the National Environmental Protection Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, to mention a few. And Earth Day is no longer just a day. This ethic has been taken to heart, and we continue to move along with the solid science-based efforts to preserve our environment.

Now certainly the number one insult to planet Earth is the way we produce and use energy. My friend from New York has been talking about not only the costs, the costs facing us, which are in dollars and lives, if we do not confront the problems created by the way we produce and use energy. It's not just an average rise in temperature where spring might come a little bit earlier; it is not just that sea level might be up a few inches or a few feet. It is that tropical diseases will appear where they haven't appeared before. We see that happening now. It is not just that we lose the scenery of glaciers in the mountains, we actually lose groundwater; we lose habitat for those things that we depend on for our well-being. So we need comprehensive energy reform to stop using dirty fuels.

It is fortunate that the efforts to deal with the dirty fuels could also relieve our trade imbalance, could also contribute to our national security by making us less dependent on foreign sources of fossil fuels, and in fact it could not only save us money; it could make us money.

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Mr. HOLT. As my friend points out, the way we are producing and using energy not only costs lives and dollars through the climate change but it exacerbates our security problems. And by addressing the energy problems, we will indeed increase our national security, saving lives. And if we really make a commitment to investing in reliable energy solutions for the United States, the United States, the historic leader in innovation in the world, the country whose economy has been built on invention and innovation, can lead the world and benefit economically big time through addressing these energy problems, through new clean, sustainable energy, starting first with the low-hanging fruit of efficiency, of wind and geothermal and other readily available sources; moving on to things, some of which are not yet developed but with the American powers of innovation, we can master these things and sell them to the rest of the world.

So the advantages in addressing the energy problem are not just in avoiding catastrophe, it is really to have a positive economic and social future. Waste is never good economics and the United States' attitude toward energy is really profligate. So there is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be gained and money to be saved that way, and then a lot of money to be earned through innovative solutions to the problems.

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Mr. HOLT. The lithium ion battery is a good example. In the ARRA, the bill that many in America know as the stimulus bill, there is a significant investment in development and manufacturing for lithium ion batteries and we are well on our way to capturing maybe a third or more of the world market in producing these lithium batteries; where previously we had a small, tiny percent of the production. So it shows that with the commitment, we really can move ahead, we really can seize, earn, a large part of the world market. That's just one example.

We can do the same thing in building technologies. We can do the same thing in other transportation technologies. We can do the same thing in electricity generation; and on and on and on. In fact, we have led the world in technologies for electricity generation, whether it be nuclear or combined cycle turbines, but that is now based on an unsustainable fossil fuel model, the way we had developed electricity generation in the United States.

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Mr. HOLT. I would like to talk about another aspect of Earth Day, where over the years now, the same level of hardheaded analysis that we are beginning to bring to the energy problem has been brought to ecology, the relationship between life forms and the environment.

Earth Day is not only about protecting the planet's atmosphere. One of the lessons of the last 40 or 50 years now is that we are a seamless web and that protection of wildlife is not just for aesthetics or humane reasons. Really, protecting the whole environment is important for human quality of life as well.

And I wanted to talk a little bit about wildlife because today I introduced legislation with my colleague and fellow Sustainable Energy Coalition member JARED POLIS. This is legislation that will create a program to protect and preserve wildlife corridors. Wildlife corridors are connected strips of land in which a wide range of animals can migrate, can propagate. One professor has called these ``sidewalks for animals.''

They are really necessary in every State. And as we have paved America, as we have bisected it and trisected it and cut it up with roads, we have found that we have moved wildlife into smaller and smaller spaces, where it is now unsustainable. So these corridors will help support the economy of hunting and wildlife watching, but it also will keep the web of life intact.

Our bill, the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, would establish a Wildlife Corridor Stewardship and Protection Fund to provide grants to Federal agencies, State and local governments, nonprofits, and corporations for creating these essential wildlife corridors. And the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Transportation are all part of this; and dozens and dozens of organizations that study and that advocate for environmental protection have endorsed this. I commend it to my colleagues, and I hope we can move along with that so that it will be law by next Earth Day.

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Mr. HOLT. Stripping the environment without replenishment is not sustainable. Ultimately, we will fail; we will perish if that's the way we are going to approach our globe. We must do it differently if we are going to prevail. With Earth Day 30 years ago, now 40 years ago----

Mr. TONKO. 1970, yes. It goes by quickly.

Mr. HOLT. We had that vision, we had that vision of a sustainable Earth. And a number of things have followed. Now it's time to really regenerate that vision. And in all of these areas of energy, of agriculture, of transportation, of wildlife management, of oceanography, we need to bring the hard science to bear in ways to make our use and our place on the planet sustainable. That's part of the name of this caucus we have here, the Sustainable Energy and Environmental Caucus, because, as I said before, waste is never good economics. And stripping things without replenishment will only leave us with a bare Earth.

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