The US Senate is the first national battleground for an attempt to get the federal government to take action to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. We already know the attempt by more than a dozen states to raise auto emission standards was stopped by the EPA earlier this year. Now the Senate is debating a bill that the President has promised to veto, if it ever gets passed by Congress, which seems unlikely.
So why bother to even note this? Because this is a political, technological battle that will continue to be fought in America. It requires every political leader in Washington to decide whether to reject or accept global warming science, whether to reject or accept responsibility for an energy policy on a national basis, whether to actively encourage cleantech or leave it to the VCs and entrepreneurs. The bill would push America toward what is called a low carbon economy. That's anathema for Senators representing coal or petroleum states, of course.
Low carbon? What's that got to do with me? Take a look at this think-tank report on how small, individual choices, many influenced by major national policies, have helped create our current carbon emission levels in the U.S. In much of the US it is currently almost impossible to live without using a car everyday. This is the result of planning and zoning (or lack thereof), mass transit (or not), land use, individual choices, housing styles, etc. etc. None of these are necessarily permanent or immutable. Thus you have the base of the argument. On the one hand, interests who don't want to see any radical alteration of the political and business landscape...on the other those who want radical change, and soon.
DON'T BE STAMPEDED
That's the word from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, representing their member businesses. Their online statement concludes: "Doing the right thing on climate change means taking an approach which must: 1. address the international nature of global climate change 2. promote accelerated technology development and deployment 3. preserve American jobs and the economy 4. reduce barriers to development of climate-friendly energy sources 5. promote energy efficiency measures
"The current bill before Congress, unfortunately, fails in each of these. We are working closely with our nation’s lawmakers and our business members..."
I emphasize the jobs portion because that is going to be a major line in the battlefield. The Chamber does not try to deny global warming but indicates it does not necessarily accept what is widely believed around the globe about climate change. And remember, President Bush has already stated the current 500-page bill before the Senate would cost the country several trillion dollars. And he would veto it.
GET BUSY NOW, IT'LL BE GOOD FOR AMERICA
This was the basic argument today from a coalition of environmental groups like NRDC, Sierra Club and the Steelworkers Union. They even had grist from a study done at UMass-Amherst. In both the report and the supporting news conference the arguments were as follows:
1) Money spent to clean up our emissions act in America will be spent on American products and employ American workers, not just in manufacturing and construction, but in maintenance and management. 2) The costs of not dealing with global warming will include ever-higher energy costs and significant social and economic costs as climate change runs over us. The real cost is in doing nothing and continued dependence on imported oil which we must buy with money borrowed from Japan, China and other cash-flow-positive countries. 3) Rebuild the US infrastructure including energy generation and the electrical grid. Retrofit millions of buildings to be energy efficient. Generate more energy from renewable sources.
So there you have the two sides that will continue to face off on global warming in America. It will become a defining issue of the next political generation in America. And no matter which way it goes you and I will be paying the price in every meaning of that word. And federal policy, or non-policy,will directly affect nearly every cleantech business in America or even trying to do business in America.
The bill now before the Senate BTW is called, officially, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. You gotta love those folks in DC, they think we're scared of everything and they want to keep it that way. Fear is not the way to deal with any issue, Senators. Get over your 9-11 shock and get to work.