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Public Statements

Climate Change

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, I come to the floor to discuss for a few minutes with my colleague from South Carolina the issue of climate change.

We all know the budget will be forthcoming. We already understand there will be some $650 billion included in the budget for general revenues that would go as revenues from climate--here it is: $646 billion over 8 years. According to some aides to the administration, it could be as much as $2 trillion. Remarkable.

What we have done is we have gone from an attempt to address the issue of climate change through cap and trade to just generating $680 billion or $2 trillion without a trace of bipartisanship, without any consultation, without discussions. What we have done on the issue of climate change, by basically funneling $680-some billion, is we have destroyed any chance of bipartisanship, and the administration is proposing a plan which will have a crippling effect in a bad economy on, particularly, parts of the country and lower income residents in the South and Midwest.

First of all, if we are going to do cap and trade, we should have generous allowances for people who are now operating under certain greenhouse gas emission conditions.

Second of all, any money, any revenues that are gained through cap and trade clearly should not go to just ``general revenues.'' Any funding
should go directly to the development of technologies which will then reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That has to be a fundamental principle. So the administration, in this budget, is basically using it as just a revenue raiser.

By the way, the entire budget contains no references to nuclear power, except striking funds for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, for which the utilities--passing it on to the ratepayers--have paid somewhere between $8 billion and $13 billion for Yucca Mountain to be used as a spent nuclear fuel repository. So it is remarkable.

The Secretary of Energy told me in a hearing in the Energy Committee: Yucca Mountain is finished. I said: What about reprocessing? Can't do that either.

So here you have nuclear powerplants--there are 120 of them operating in the United States of America today--and we cannot reprocess and we cannot store. So what do we do? We either keep them in pools or ``solidification'' outside of nuclear powerplants all over America--clearly, a threat to the Nation's security.

Let me say to my colleagues, I am proud of my record on climate change. I have been all over the world, and I have seen climate change. I know it is real, and I will be glad to continue this debate with my colleagues and people who do not agree with that. I believe climate change is real.

I believe with what we did in addressing acid rain, which was through a cap-and-trade kind of dynamic, we were able to largely eliminate the problem of acid rain in America. So it has been done before, and we can do it again, admittedly on a much smaller scale.

In the Antarctic, in Alaska and even in the rain forests of Brazil and here in the United States, we are feeling the effect of climate change. So here we are, with a chance to work together in a bipartisan fashion on the issue, and what does the administration do? They send over a budget which earmarks $600-and-some billion--$646 billion--which would then go to general revenues, with no consultation or discussions on the issue. I am proud to have worked with Senator Lieberman in years past on trying to address the issue of climate change.

Of course, there is no mention of nuclear power. I do not wish to spend my time on the floor, too much, on nuclear power. But according to the Department of Energy--and depending on whom you talk to--solar will contribute something like 5, 10, at most, 15 percent of our renewable energy needs between now and 2050. Wind, tide, all those others may contribute another 10, 15, 20 percent.

There is a vast, gaping hole in our demand for renewable energy, and nuclear power and hydro can fill those. This administration has turned its back completely on nuclear power. So what do we tell the ratepayers and the utilities that have been paying billions of dollars? As I mentioned, somewhere between $8 billion and $13 billion they have invested in Yucca Mountain. And now we are canceling it? Well, maybe they ought to get their money back since it was Government action that made Yucca Mountain no longer a viable option.

We need to debate this issue. We need to address it separately. We certainly do not need to address the issue of climate change and how we are going to remedy it through the budget process.

By the way, the Obama administration plans to use revenues as a slush fund to meet budgetary shortfalls, as I mentioned. Only $120 billion of the $650 billion in new revenues would go to climate policy spending, $15 billion a year out of the $650 billion would go for clean energy technologies. There is no detail in the budget as to what this includes or excludes--except for closing Yucca Mountain.

Nuclear is not mentioned in the entire budget. Most of the remainder of the revenues generated from the present cap-and-trade proposal as sent over and part of the budget will be used to pay for the Making Work Pay tax credit. I would add that the administration argues that the Making Work Pay tax credit will offset the increase in utility bills caused by their cap-and-trade policy. However, the credit is phased out for taxpayers earning between $75,000 and $95,000 a year for individuals and $150,000 to $190,000 for married couples.

So the administration is insisting on 100 percent auction which, obviously, would be an incredible detriment to a very serious approach. Our economy is suffering. At times such as these, it is particularly important we provide for transition assistance that will not result in higher energy costs. Again, I wish to point out 100 percent auction will harm heavy manufacturers, the very ones who need the help the most: automobiles, concrete, et cetera, and the lower income residents of the South and Midwest.

Every reasonable cap-and-trade bill in the past has been a blend of auction and allocations--except for this one. The hybrid approach allows heavy manufacturers and coal-fired utilities time to meet emissions targets without needing to exponentially raise energy costs for consumers.

So the administration has sent us a budget with not a single mention of nuclear power and Yucca Mountain no longer an option. No Yucca Mountain means no waste confidence and, certainly, no new licensing, no spent fuel recycling. Secretary Chu is insinuating the French and Japanese, who have been recycling for decades, are ``reckless.''

So what we need to do is take up separately the issue of climate change legislation. It would have a gradual implementation schedule. It would allow for the economy to adapt while we meet our environmental goals. The policy must aggressively promote nonemitting green energy technologies, such as nuclear power, hydro, and others. We should pursue a hybrid approach of auctioning a portion of credits while reserving a large portion of the credits that we could allocate to those who need the most help, complying with the emission reductions. Revenues should be used to promote new technologies, help low-income people with the increased costs of electricity, and pay down the debt--not expand the Federal Government.

So it is with some regret I come to the floor to discuss this important issue with a total lack of bipartisanship on the part of the administration and, again, express my willingness--in fact, my deep desire--to sit down and try to address, in a bipartisan fashion, this compelling issue, which is endangering the future of this planet and certainly our children's and grandchildren's future, and that is the issue of climate change.

Madam President, I yield the floor.


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