GUEST COMMENTARY: American Power Act is good, but environmental protections needed

Thursday, June 10, 2010 | 11:57 a.m. CDT; updated 5:48 p.m. CDT, Friday, June 11, 2010

We put our economy, our security and our environment in great peril when we don't move quickly to super efficiency and safer, cleaner, renewable sources of energy. Passing a comprehensive climate and energy bill this year is urgent and the American Power Act is a good starting point.

The following need to be included in any climate and energy legislation passed by the Senate and House.

While the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act has good elements, it needs to be more comprehensive, strengthened by the following:

  1. The Gulf Coast drilling disaster has become the worst environmental disaster in American history. Further, we are seeing more coal-mining disasters and natural-gas pipelines exploding. There must be an immediate moratorium on any additional offshore drilling. Safeguards, with adequate oversight, must be developed and in place for all underground energy sources and fuel supplies.
  2. There must be strong investment in and subsidies for conservation, efficiency and renewable sources of energy including wind, solar, tidal, small-hydroand certain biofuels that will not affect world food costs and supplies, or water and land availability, of which algae is a good example. There must also be a decreasing investment in fossil fuel and nuclear energy programs, which have received long-term financial taxpayer support. These sources are dirty, dangerous and damaging while diverting financial investment in renewable energy.
  3. A 17 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels is way below what climate experts say where we should be, which is a minimum of 25 percent to 40 percent lower than 1990 levels before 2020. If scientific projections of human contribution to global climate change have even a chance of being right, we have a strong moral obligation to quickly reduce these emissions. In the process, we will become the world's leaders in a new clean-energy economy, instead of falling behind other countries already building this new global economy.

Further, the authority of the Clean Air Act and the ability of the EPA to enforce it must be kept strong, individual state's efforts to reduce carbon emissions must be allowed, there must be appropriate investment in international efforts to find solutions on climate change in both mitigation and adaptation and timetables must reflect the urgency of the need to move quickly to safer, cleaner, renewable energy.

Legislation opposing the Supreme Court's Endangerment Finding, which states the Environmental Protection Agency, through the Clean Air Act, can regulate greenhouse gas emissions as these emissions are an endangerment to public health, must be opposed and understood as having greater financial concern for the health of big energy than for the physical health and well-being of the American public. These attempts are essentially "giveaways" to big energy at the expense of the American taxpayer and public health and welfare.

Monta Welch is founder and president of Columbia Climate Change Coalition.

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