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Public Statements

Issue Position: Energy and Environment

Issue Position

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Climate Change

I believe that our greenhouse gas emissions have put our global environment, social structure, and national security in peril, and if we fail to act, the impact will reverberate during the later decades of this new century. The volatility of our climate, including floods and droughts, severe weather, and temperature extremes will result in the loss of human lives, increased susceptibility to disease, the extinction of species of animals and plants, destruction of ecosystems, and increased social conflict.

Among the political challenges we face is that our greatest obligation in tackling the threat of global climate change is not to each other. Our greatest obligation is to the generations of Americans and people all around the world who haven't been born yet -- the ones who will inhabit this planet long after we are gone. What if they could speak to us about the future we left them? What would our great great grandchildren say to us about what we did, once we knew that our climate was changing and that we were to blame?

I support measures that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow the rate of global warming and protect our environment. There are essentially three ways to achieve these goals:

* Use less energy
* Use clean energy
* Capture and store carbon from dirty energy

As a member of the Energy & Environment Subcommittee of the Energy & Commerce Committee, I have been actively engaged in crafting a mandatory, market-based, cap and trade bill to address climate change. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House, meets these targets. It has four key components -- it increases renewable energy requirements, sets higher energy efficiency standards, creates a cap and trade program to address emissions, and provides assistance and incentives for transitioning to a low-carbon economy--our opportunities for success are achievable. Additionally, the bill includes language that I drafted to help EPA establish a well-designed greenhouse gas registry to ensure comprehensive emissions reporting nationwide. Such data is critical to ensuring a successful U.S. climate policy.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act is our nation's response to a challenge that has consequences of epic proportions. It brings what we need in terms of leadership and commitment as we look toward Copenhagen and beyond. And, it recognizes that our nation's security, our planet's sustainability, and our children's future hang in the balance. At the same time, we recognize that the world is watching our every step.

Energy Independence

In early 2007, at the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congress began an exhaustive examination into energy independence and eventually passed the Energy Independence and Security Act. This measure puts America on a path toward energy independence, strengthens our national security, grows our economy and creates new jobs, lowers energy prices, and begins to address global warming. Specifically, it:

* increases the fuel efficiency of vehicles to 35 miles per gallon by 2020;
* expands American-grown biofuels (Renewable Fuels Standard) to 36 billion gallons in 2022;
* slashes U.S. oil consumption by more than 4 million barrels per day by 2030-- more than twice our daily imports from the Persian Gulf;
* saves consumers more than $400 billion through new energy efficiency standards for appliances, lighting and buildings through 2030;
* creates hundreds of thousands of jobs;
* promotes massive development of biofuels;
* spurs cutting-edge energy research;
* prepares workers for 3 million new "green" jobs over the next 10 years; and
* promotes small businesses as renewable energy leaders

I am pleased to say that a number of the provisions included in the Energy Independence bill came from discussions and conversations that I had back home in Wisconsin with experts on energy, the environment, and climate change. From those discussions, I crafted language included in the bill to increase industrial and home energy efficiency standards, encourage advanced battery and plug-in hybrid programs, minimize exposure to mercury in energy efficient light bulbs, and study the adequacy of railroad transportation for renewable fuels. These energy efficiency measures, combined with many others in this bill, will reduce energy costs to consumers. The bill also will remove as much as 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2030, more than the annual emissions of all of the cars on the road in America today.

However, our work is not done. We must reduce our dependence on foreign oil and plan for a post petroleum economy. Advancements in wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and other renewable energies must be a part of the solution.

Gas Prices

I certainly understand the frustrations that many Wisconsinites have expressed regarding the price of gasoline, diesel, and oil. Many hard working families have told me about the serious economic challenges they face because of the prices at the pump. We must enact a comprehensive energy plan with near-term measures to offer immediate relief from the high cost of fuels, combined with significant long-term policies to provide secure, low-cost, renewable, and clean sources of energy.

A number of factors contribute to rising gasoline prices, including: unexpected demand growth in China and India; disruptions in oil production in major exporters, such as Venezuela, Iraq and Nigeria; speculation in energy markets; the weakened value of the dollar; and declining domestic refining capacity.

To address fuel prices, I have supported:

* temporarily suspending the fill of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR);
* releasing about 70 million barrels of light, sweet crude oil from the SPR;
* curbing the role of excessive speculation, price distortion, sudden or unreasonable fluctuations or unwarranted changes in prices that cause major market disturbances, preventing it from accurately reflecting the forces of supply and demand on energy commodities;
* enacting a windfall profits tax on oil and gas companies that are making record profits while at the same time failing to increase supply; and
* adopting a "use it or lose it' measure, which requires oil producers to drill on the leases they already have or relinquish them so that another company can produce the oil there

Providing near-term gas price relief is beneficial, but it must be complemented with long-term solutions to ensure that our country continues to have the energy we need at reasonable prices. I believe that our long-term energy solutions lie in renewable sources. For this reason, I support several bills that lower our dependence on oil, reduce our consumption of fossil fuels, increase our fuel efficiency, and encourage innovation and development of renewable fuel technologies.

Drilling

I am concerned that drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) or the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) will threaten some of our nation's most pristine wilderness. ANWR is home to caribou, a sanctuary for hundreds of species of birds and waterfowl, and home to 260 Inupiat natives. Further, drilling in the OCS exposes our air, water, and wildlife to the potential oil and gas spills, pollution, and land damage.

Some Members of Congress who support increased domestic energy production have argued that opening up ANWR and the OCS for oil and gas drilling is necessary for our country to become energy independent. However, it is well documented that oil supplies from these locations will not reduce America's reliance on foreign oil producers. It is estimated that ANWR has approximately 10.4 billion barrels of oil, and most of this oil will not be delivered to consumers for 10 years. Moreover, 80 percent of the oil available on the Outer Continental Shelf is already open for leasing, but the oil companies have not decided it is worth their money to drill there.

Clean Water

The earth's water is one of our most precious resources. Nothing truly matters unless we have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. But, we must take action to ensure that there is an adequate supply of water for years and generations to come. Currently, approximately 40 percent of the nation's waters still do not meet basic safety standards. Many beaches are too polluted for swimming and many fish are so contaminated that they threaten human health.

The problem of mercury in our water is so severe that fish advisories exist for all fish in every lake and stream in Wisconsin. The amount of mercury contained in just one household thermostat is enough to poison a 60-acre lakefront for one year.

For humans, exposure to mercury can damage the function of the central nervous system and impair reproduction. High prenatal exposure can lead to cerebral palsy and mental retardation. In response, I am a lead sponsor of a bill that would help prevent mercury found in household items from getting into our lakes and streams.

I also am concerned about the presence of pharmaceuticals in our nation's waters. A recent Associated Press study found that pharmaceuticals have been detected in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. To examine this issue further, I am proud to cosponsor legislation calling on the EPA to conduct a study examining the presence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in our nation's drinking water supplies.

Additionally, I strongly oppose efforts to undermine the Clean Water Act and deny protection and cleanup for many waterways throughout the United States. Rather, we must seek out greater protections for our streams, lakes, wetlands, and other water resources.

Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are a prized natural treasure of our entire nation, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they are protected. It is especially important that we preserve the biodiversity and the ecosystem of the Great Lakes.

Populations of plants and animals have been destroyed as a result of rapid reproduction rates and gross levels of consumption by species such as the Asian Carp fish. This phenomenon has the potential to endanger our environmental sustainability and threatens to create an imbalance in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

I am committed to enhancing environmental quality and economic development throughout the Great Lakes basin. For instance, I support several bills that would increase funding for clean-up programs and address the growing Asian Carp population in the Great Lakes.

Invasive Species

Invasive species pose a risk to native animal and plant species and can be a significant economic burden on communities and homeowners. In Wisconsin alone, we face the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer, VHS, Spiny Water Fleas, Hydrilla and several other invasive plants and animals. Left unchecked, these species can decimate native populations, upset ecological balances, and cause significant economic damage.

I have long supported efforts to increase funding for research, control, and eradication of these species. However, we all must do our part to keep them from spreading. Such steps we can take include: not moving firewood, especially from emerald ash quarantined areas; inspecting boats, trailers and equipment and removing all plants, animals, and mud that may be attached; and responding aggressively to rid land of new invasive species.

Wildlife Protection

I am greatly concerned about the dwindling population of many species of wild animals. These animals are critical to the survival of our ecosystem. Moreover, it is essential that we protect wildlife species so that future generations can marvel in their power, beauty, and grace.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is critical legislation that protects our entire environment by preserving populations of endangered and threatened species. We must ensure that the ESA is fully funded and strongly enforced.

Wisconsin is home to several wildlife refuges, including the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, where many species of animals reside, including wolves, Karner blue butterflies, and white-tailed deer. It also is the location where there have been efforts to reintroduce the endangered whooping crane. Cranes are the most endangered family of birds in the world, with eleven of the world's fifteen species at risk of extinction. Industrial development, pollution, and encroachments on their natural habitat have all contributed to the shrinking crane population worldwide. In an effort to reintroduce a migratory flock into their historic range in the eastern United States, a recovery team used ultralight aircraft to train and lead the young cranes on their spectacular journey stretching from city to city and state to state.

I am the lead sponsor of the Crane Conservation Act, which would authorize up to $5 million per year to be distributed in the form of conservation project grants to protect cranes and the wetland and grassland ecosystems on which they depend. The measure would provide the means for the United States to fulfill various international obligations and commitments, thus having a large environmental and cultural impact across the globe. It also would bring people and governments around the world together to protect ecosystems, develop adequate habitats, and encourage overall goodwill.

Cranes are particularly important to Wisconsin's economy and culture. Efforts to protect cranes create jobs and spur tourism, while continuing Wisconsin's legacy as a world leader in conservation.


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