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Kerry at LCV: Energy Only Legislation Doesn't Get the Job Done


Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), co-author of the American Power Act, the Senate's comprehensive energy independence and climate change legislation, this evening applauded the League of Conservation Voters for their forty years of distinguished leadership on environmental protection, and challenged them to make this the year the Senate passes legislation to send a price signal on carbon.

Senator Kerry will be a featured speaker at the LCV's 40th Anniversary Dinner tonight at Union Station in Washington, D.C.

Senator Kerry's full remarks as prepared are below:

You know, when you look around this room, you realize a lot of us have been at this for a long time. Forty years. It's hard to imagine so much time has passed -- but not so hard to count our success. The League of Conservation Voters has been at the forefront of this great movement almost since the beginning. And so have some of the people you are honoring tonight.

What was it -- just a few months after the first Earth Day that the League organized? It's actually quit stunning to look back to 1970 and consider the giant steps we took after that first Earth Day -- one of the largest demonstration in human history, more than 20 million Americans protesting the pollution of their environment.

Politicians had no choice but to take notice. Twelve Congressmen were dubbed the Dirty Dozen, and soon after seven were kicked out of office. The floodgates were opened. We got the Clean Air Act, The Clean Water Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Coastal Zone management Act and Safe Drinking Water. We even created the Environmental Protection Agency.

You know, the government didn't do any of this out of the goodness of its heart. People--not politicians--made this happen. The quality of life in our country improved because concerned citizens made their issues matter in elections.

The fact is the environment is a political issue, in many ways as much a matter of mobilization as science. And we need to remind ourselves of that as the Senate gets ready to consider climate change and energy independence legislation.

I don't think we have ever been as close to a political breakthrough on this issue as we are now. The coalition we've built -- CEO's of major companies, industry leaders, evangelical leaders, admirals, generals and environmentalists -- tells you this isn't your grandfather's climate bill. It's a game changer in the Senate, if we put our shoulders to the wheel.

I know, I know -- for decades, Washington has been talking about the need for a better, smarter, more innovative energy policy -- from every president since Richard Nixon. We've talked through oil embargoes, record gas prices, war after war in the Middle East and ecological disasters like the one we are witnesses in the Gulf of Mexico. And yet here we are, as dependent as ever on oil imports, with some STILL proposing that we do little more than "drill, baby, drill."

But for those of us who are committed to getting energy and climate change legislation passed, I think it's time to "push, baby, push."

I know that in an election year, some in the Senate are tempted to settle for an "energy-only" bill -- then go home and declare victory. That would be a profound mistake because our economy is still fragile, and our bill means jobs -- at a time the economy needs just that.

The nonpartisan Peterson Institute for International Economics just completed the first independent analysis of the American Power Act. And the Institute says the bill will generate a decade of multi-million dollar investments, creating 200,000 new jobs a year and reducing foreign oil imports by 40 percent. The study also says that because of the strong consumer protection provisions in the bill, American families will see a $35 net decrease in energy costs annually through 2030.

We pass "energy-only" measures every couple years -- most recently in 2005 and 2007, and frankly they haven't made any fundamental difference in the way we make and use energy in this country. In fact, we're importing more oil now than we were before 9/11. So "energy-only" certainly hasn't ended our addiction to oil, as we certainly can see from all the heartbreaking images from the oil-ravaged Gulf of Mexico. You know, I think we can finally get that oil leak plugged if we stuff it with the BP executives' bonus money.

We're not going to put an end to these kinds of disasters if we don't pass comprehensive legislation that gets serious about creating clean energy alternatives in this country, and that wont' happen unless we put a price on carbon.

There will always be a reason to wait. But as Martin Luther King once wrote from a Birmingham jail, ""Wait' has almost always meant "Never'." America can't afford that. We can't afford to pass up what could be our last, best chance.

Tomorrow, in the Senate, we're going to hear once again that we should wait. We're going to be asked to approve an amendment by Sen. Murkowski that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from addressing climate change through rulemaking. And in the process, we're going to witness a sustained, full frontal assault on the science on climate change.

But this is nothing new. During the Bush Administration, Philip Cooney, the man in charge of environmental policy, came from the American Petroleum Institute. He followed a political strategy that, not surprisingly, originated with the tobacco industry. It fostered the idea that global warming, like cigarettes causing lung cancer, was "theory rather than fact," as one internal industry memo put it.

And for awhile they succeeded. But if you put science on trial, as they did in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, the truth will come out. And I'll tell you - the science on climate change is more definitive than ever and more troubling than ever. And I think the attacks we're going to witness this week are the last gasps of the Senate's flat earth caucus.

Some will argue that what we are proposing is too difficult or too expensive, too complicated or too divisive politically. But they ignore all our success since 1970. So never listen to those who counsel despair. And never underestimate American ingenuity.

All we need is the political will to act, and I am confident this Senate will act -- but, don't forget, we've got to "push, baby, push."

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