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Public Statements

The Safe Climate Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COHEN. Thank you. I appreciate your leadership on this issue and your scheduling this Special Order.

Dr. James Hansen did retire. He is considered the foremost climatologist in the world. As I understand it, he shared in a Nobel Prize in 2007 on this general type of issue. He's been the leading proponent of watching out for the future.

The Keystone pipeline, he's the clarion call, I guess, on the problems that that would cause to the environment in the future. Because the tar sands, to mine, is a very carbon-intensive activity. You take away the forest. You also have to use a lot of water and a lot of energy in the production. Just the production of the tar sands causes great damage to the environment, let alone the potential for damage to our country when they would travel through the pipelines. Then, when they're burnt, that's, I guess, lighting the carbon bomb and letting it go off. But Dr. Hanson studied climate and was one of the first to warn on this issue. He has retired, so we will have his voice.

I live in Memphis. It's kind of the center of the region, Oklahoma over, for tornadoes. Tornadoes have been much, much more prominent in the United States. This just isn't a quirk. Mother Nature can have her times and certain variances in her schedule, but it's obvious what's been happening with the increase in tornadoes, the droughts, the floods. The Mississippi River, it's been the lowest it's ever been in spots--and it's flooded. It had the worst floods in Memphis ever about 2 or 3 years ago, and this year the river was its lowest. We've gone from its highest to its lowest, and something's happening; it's obvious something is happening. Scientists, almost to one, tell us that this is because of what we've done to the environment.

There might be two out of 100 scientists. It seems so unfortunate that the other side always grabs one or two of those people, rather than the 98.

We all have a debt and a duty to protect the Earth and, I think, looking out for issues where we do conserve, as you've said. I've got a company in Memphis I met with last week--they're really in Mississippi--called Griffin, and they have found a way to come up with a system that when a vehicle idles--and they're talking about, in their specific situation, armored cars that have a lot of going around and they idle their engines when they pick up their financial deposits--it costs a lot to the environment in burning of oil when the car is running. They've got a way where the car can be turned off and the idling of the engine can stop, but, nevertheless, the vehicle still gets air-conditioning and power. It can save a tremendous amount of gasoline and protect the environment. Hopefully, they can come within some grants that are already available to make companies that need to retrofit their vehicles to use that, but it is like raising our CAFE standards. The best way to save energy is not to have to use it and to conserve on that.

There are opportunities we have. Obviously, we have to concentrate on this. We've got to look to alternatives, and wind and solar are two of them. It's a disaster waiting to happen, and we just can't close our eyes to it. It's important that we take a leadership role in the world.

Mr. Blumenauer, I would like to ask you, the Defense Department that raised those issues about it being important to our national defense, were they referring to the droughts that they foresaw coming in the future with climate change and what might happen in some of those countries where they have less opportunity to produce food and have water, et cetera?


Mr. COHEN. I figured it was, and it's just unbelievable. And last week it was cold. I mean, I had my winter suit when I went home, and I brought my summer stuff here today.

The heat does have effects, and you brought up some of the other issues. It's not just the polar bears. I'm a big fan of the polar bears, but they're going to be eliminated because they're going to lose their ability to survive in their natural climate. Also, the flora and the fauna are at risk.

What Mr. Blumenauer mentioned about defense made me think of a long time ago when I was in college. There was a man I thought a lot of named Don Wolfson. He was a smart man from a family that had knowledge of power in this country. We were talking about who was the most powerful person in the country and what were the most powerful interests. I had said something about the military industrial complex and how President Eisenhower had warned us in his last address about the military industrial complex. What he warned us about really was the impact they would have on the budget and all those things. But what Don Wolfson told me was the military industrial complex is all tied to one thing: oil. That's what it's about.

The military runs on oil. And as Mr. Blumenauer so well pointed out, they're the most consuming user of oil, and they also at the same time are spending much of their efforts defending the trade routes to get oil. That's why the 5th Fleet is over there in Bahrain, and it is defending the Strait of Hormuz and why Iran has particular significance in the Middle East.

It's amazing what President Eisenhower warned us about, and I don't know if that was part of his warning, but maybe there was more truth to what he said and we probably should spend a part of each day reflecting on President Eisenhower's warning about the military industrial complex and what it has done to our Nation, because that's where the budget has really got a great problem, and that all goes back to our dependence on foreign oil.


Mr. COHEN. Memphis borders Arkansas, and there was some kind of a pipeline problem over there recently. I think it might have been Exxon. They had a leak. That's kind of an expensive process. That's similar to the Keystone pipeline; isn't it? It gives us kind of a warning of what could occur.


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