STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - January 12, 2007)
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I am pleased to join Senator LIEBERMAN today, along with our co-sponsors, Senators SNOWE, OBAMA, COLLINS, and LINCOLN, in introducing the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007. This legislation is designed to significantly reduce the Nation's greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the dangerous impacts of climate change, enhance our national security and maintain the strength to our economy. It would be accomplished through a combination of trading markets and the deployment of advanced technologies.
As I have stated on previous occasions, the design of this legislation is an evolving process. The legislation we are introducing today represents yet another step in that effort. Since our last vote on this legislation, Senator Lieberman and I have continued work on this proposal with the goal of producing the most innovative, meaningful, and economically feasible measure that can be embraced by the Senate. We believe the changes which we have made since we first introduced climate change legislation in the 108th Congress puts us on the path to achieving this goal, and we intend to make further improvements to this comprehensive legislation in the days ahead.
We have continually worked with scientists, industry, environmentalists, as well as the faith-based community, to ensure that we are fully addressing the serious problem of global warming. We continue to learn more about the science and the impacts of climate change on a daily basis. We continue to work with economists and industry experts to ensure that our emissions goals do not hamstring our economic objectives. In particular, we continue to learn more about the power of the markets to control costs as emission credit trading continues in Europe and here in the U.S. I am confident that given the will, the Federal Government can be a lead advocate for ensuring that America is doing its part to reduce global warming, and join in the global effort that is needed to address this world-wide environmental issue.
I want to mention the efforts of States like California, which has already enacted legislation requiring mandatory reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the Northeast States of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont, which are also seeking to limit emissions from power plants. Over 300 U.S. mayors have signed an agreement to reduce emissions in their cities.
As these State plans and legislation are implemented, they will offer Congress and the Administration unique opportunities to review and incorporate lessons learned from these efforts into Federal legislation. Despite the improvements we have made in this version of our bill to be environmentally responsible and to minimize economic costs, we will continue to pursue new and innovative ideas that will further these objectives, and we will modify our bill accordingly.
The legislation we submit today is designed to protect our environment from the impacts of the climate change resulting from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, improve our national security by reducing reliance on fossil fuels that often carry with them geopolitical costs, and position our economy to become a world leader in the expanding markets for development and deployment of new energy efficient technologies and renewable energy sources. It proposes the utilization of the ``cap and trade' approach and promotes the commercialization of technologies that can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and increase the nation's energy independence. And it will help to keep America at the cutting edge of innovation where the jobs and trade opportunities of the new economy are to be found. It will also serve to protect our country and the world from the security threat posed by populations whose health, livelihood, and variability are potentially threatened by global rising temperatures and altered environments.
In fact, the cap and trade provisions and the technology title are complementary parts of a comprehensive program that will allow us to usher in a new energy era, an era of responsible and innovative energy production and use that will yield enormous environmental, economic, and diplomatic benefits. The cap and trade portion provides the economic driver for existing and new technologies capable of supplying reliable and clean energy and making the best use of America's available energy resources. Because of the multiple benefits promised by this comprehensive program, we expect that the new bill will attract additional support for the vital purposes of the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. We simply need the political will to match the public's concern about climate change, desire for national security, the economic interests of business and consumers, and American technological ingenuity and expertise.
As I mentioned, we continue to learn more about the science of climate change and the dangerous precedence of not addressing this environmental problem. The science tells us that urgent and significant action is needed. Our National Academies of Sciences, along with the national academies from the other G8 nations, China, India, and Brazil, has said in a joint statement that ``there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring.' and ``[t] he scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action.'
We recognize that many fear the costs of taking action. But there are costs to delay as well. Failure to implement significant reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions in the near term will yield only more climate change and a much harder job in the future. Our comprehensive legislation is one approach to a productive, secure, and clean energy future. But it is only one approach and we welcome other proposals--let a thousand flowers bloom.
Significant reductions in greenhouse gases--well beyond those required by this bill--are feasible over the next 15-20 years using technologies available today. Also, the most important technological deployment opportunities to reduce emissions over the next two decades lie with energy efficient technologies and renewable energy sources, including nuclear, solar, wind, and bio-fuels. For example, in the electric power sector, which accounts for one-third of U.S. emissions, major pollution reductions can be achieved by improving the efficiency of existing fossil fuel plants, adding new reactors designs for nuclear power, expanding use of renewable power sources, and significantly reducing electricity demand with the use of energy-saving technologies currently available to residential and commercial consumers. These clean technologies need to be promoted and that is what spurs our action today.
Let me take a moment to address a section of our legislation that has been the target of some concerns by environmentalists and others--concerns that I believe are entirely unwarranted. The provisions in our bill to promote nuclear energy are an important part of the comprehensive technology package.
I know that some of our friends here in the Senate and in the environmental community maintain strong objections to nuclear energy, even though today it supplies nearly 20 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. and much higher proportions in places such as France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland--countries that are not exactly known for their environmental disregard. The fact is, nuclear energy is CLEAN. It produces ZERO emissions, while the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity produces approximately 33 percent of the greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, and is a major contributor to air pollution affecting our communities.
The idea that nuclear power should play no role in our future energy mix is an unsustainable position, particularly given the urgency and magnitude of the threat posed by global warming which most regard as the greatest environmental threat to the planet.
The International Energy Agency estimates that the world's energy consumption is expected to rise over 65 percent within the next fifteen years. If the demand for electricity is met using traditional coal-fired power plants, not only will we fail to reduce carbon emissions as necessary, but the level of carbon in the atmosphere will skyrocket and intensify the greenhouse effect and the global warming it produces.
As nuclear plants are decommissioned, the percentage of U.S. electricity produced by this zero-emission technology will actually decline. Therefore, at a minimum, we must make efforts to maintain nuclear energy's level of contribution, so that this capacity is not replaced with higher-emitting alternatives.
No doubt, some people will object to the idea of the Federal Government playing any role in helping demonstrate and commercialize new and beneficial energy technologies, and particularly nuclear designs. We understand the power of markets to spur innovation and our proposals is built on this fundamental lesson. But the fact remains that the market playing field has been highly uneven--fossil fuels have been subsidized for many decades at levels that can scarcely be calculated. The enormous economic costs of damage caused by air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions to the environment and human health are not factored into the price of power produced by fossil-fueled technologies. Yet, it's a cost that we all bear, too often in terms of ill-health and diminished quality of life. That is simply a matter of fact.
It is also inescapable that the ability to avoid internalizing these costs placed produces at a great advantage over clean competitors. Based on that fact, and in light of the enormous environmental and economic risk posed by global warming, I believe that providing zero and low emission technologies such as nuclear a boost into the market place so that these clean technologies can be utilized as soon as possible is responsible public policy, and a matter of simple public necessity, particularly, as we work to promote America's energy independence.
The Navy has operated nuclear powered submarines for more than 50 years and has an impressive safety and performance record. The Naval Reactors program has demonstrated that nuclear power can be done safely. One of the underpinning of its safety record is the approach used in its reactor designs, which is to learn and built upon previous designs. Unfortunately for the commercial nuclear industry, they have not had the opportunity to use such an approach since the industry has not been able to build a reactor in over the past 25 years. This lapse in construction has led us to where we are today with the industry's aging infrastructure. As we have learned from other industries, this in itself represents a great risk to public safety.
As Senator LIEBERMAN and I have continued working for passage of legislation to address climate change in a meaningful way, it has become clear to us that any responsible climate change measure must contain five essential components:
First, it must have rational, mandatory emission reduction targets and timetables. It must be goal oriented, and has both environmental and economic integrity. We need policy that will produce necessary outcomes, not merely check political boxes. The goal must be feasible and based on sound science, and this is what we have tried to do in this bill.
Second, it must utilize a market-based cap and trade system. It must limit greenhouse gas emissions and allows the trading of emission credits to drive enterprise, innovation and efficiency. This is the central component of our legislation. Voluntary efforts will not change the status quo, taxes are counterproductive, and markets are more dependable than regulators in effecting sustainable change.
Third, it must include mechanisms to minimize costs and work effectively with other markets. The ``trade' part of ``cap and trade' is such a mechanism, but it's clear it must be bolstered by other assurances that costs will be minimized. I am as concerned as anyone about the economic impacts associated with any climate change legislation. I know that many economists are developing increasingly sophisticated ways to project future costs of compliance. Lately, we have seen the increased interest in this area of research. As we learn more from these models about additional action items to further reduce costs, we intend to incorporate them. Already, based upon earlier economic analysis, we have added ``offsets' provisions in this bill in an effort to minimize costs and to provide for the creation of new markets. And, I assure my colleagues, we will continue to seek new and innovative ways to further minimize costs.
Fourth, it must spur the development and deployment of advanced technology. Nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy must be part of the equation and we need a dedicated national commitment to develop and bring to market the technologies of the future as a matter of good environmental and economic policy. There will be a growing global market for these technologies and the U.S. will benefit greatly from being competitive and capturing its share of these markets. This legislation includes a detailed technology title that would go a long way toward meeting this goal. Unlike the Energy bill, it would be funded using the proceeds from the auctioning of allowable emission credits, rather than from the use of taxpayers' funds or appropriations that will never materialize.
And fifth, it must facilitate international efforts to solve the problem. Global warming is an international problem requiring an international effort. The United States has an obligation to lead. Our leadership cannot replace the need for action by countries such as India and China. We must spur and facilitate it. We have added provisions that would allow U.S. companies to enter into partnerships in developing countries for the purpose of conducting projects to achieve certified emission reductions, which may be traded on the international market.
These five components represent a serious challenge that will require a great deal of effort, the concentration of substantial intellectual power, and the continued efforts of our colleagues and those in the environmental, industry, economic, and national security communities. We look forward to collaborating in this effort as we continue to shape our legislation to its most effective form.
The status quo is a strong and stubborn force. People and institutions are averse to change, even when that change is critical for their own well-being, and that of their children and grandchildren. If the scientists are right and temperatures continue to rise, we could face environmental, economic, and national security consequences far beyond our ability to imagine. If they are wrong and the Earth finds a way to compensate for the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, what will we have accomplished? Cleaner air; greater energy efficiency, a more diverse and secure energy mix, and U.S. leadership in the technologies of the future. There is no doubt; failure to act is the far greater risk.