Today we're having a hearing on electricity access.
Access to affordable, reliable electricity is fundamental to our economy. It is a subject we should be working together to address, especially since much of our current electricity infrastructure is decades old and will need to be replaced or upgraded in the coming years. According to the Edison Foundation, these investments will cost over $1 trillion over the next two decades.
But we can't have an honest discussion about the future of the electricity system unless we talk about climate change. Until we have an energy policy that acknowledges the reality of climate change, the utility industry will operate in a perpetual state of uncertainty.
Outside of Congress, there is broad agreement that climate change is the most significant issue facing our energy systems and infrastructure needs.
On Monday, the CEO of the nation's largest railroad, Matthew Rose, called for an energy policy that recognizes the reality of climate change.
On Tuesday, David Crane, the CEO of the nation's second largest power generator, said that climate change is the most serious threat to the future of the world.
These CEOs operate in the real world, so unlike this Committee, they know the value of listening to scientists.
And scientists know that climate change is occurring and that human activities such as burning fossil fuels are largely responsible.
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which assessed nearly 10,000 peer-reviewed studies, concludes that "warming in the climate system is unequivocal" and "human influence on the climate system is clear."
And just yesterday the Royal Society in the United Kingdom and our National Academy of Sciences jointly briefed this Committee to reiterate that it is now more certain than ever that humans are changing Earth's climate and that these changes will have serious impacts on human societies and the natural world.
Energy, economic prosperity, and the climate are intertwined. The rest of the world knows this.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls climate change "an existential threat." And World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said that unless we address climate change, we could witness the rolling back of decades of development gains and force tens of millions more to live in poverty." President Kim said point blankly, "if we don't confront climate change, we won't end poverty."
We need to face this reality if we are going to design an energy policy that protects our environment, grows our economy, and gives companies the certainty they need.
Electricity system investments cost hundreds of millions and often billions of dollars and are expected to last for decades. It makes no sense to build this infrastructure without considering its effects on the climate and the effects of climate change on our energy systems.
Much of American industry knows this. Even ExxonMobil screens investments using a price on carbon of $60 per ton. Most other major oil companies assume carbon prices as well. Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, Delta, GE, Google, DuPont . . . all are using a price on carbon to guide their decisions.
As we will hear from one of our witnesses today, Synapse, even utility companies are assuming carbon prices in their planning.
According to a recent survey, "carbon pricing has become standard operating practice in business planning." But it is still anathema even to discuss the idea in this Committee.
We need to stop denying science and start listening to the scientists and enlightened business leaders if we are going to succeed in crafting a sustainable energy policy for the future.