The Murkowski Resolution: A step backward for American clean energy
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
In the last 18 months, the United States has taken major steps forward in the transition to a clean energy economy. With historic investments in solar, wind, and other innovative renewable energy sources, we are positioned to compete for the clean energy jobs of today and tomorrow, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and to cut the pollution that harms our families and the future for our children and grandchildren.
With all those steps forward, now is not the time to take a big step backward, by doubling down on the kinds of energy and environmental policies that keep America addicted to oil — especially foreign oil. As the president has said, traditional sources of energy have to be part of the mix as we transition to a clean energy economy, but they can’t be our only sources.
Our nation’s addiction to oil pollutes the air we breathe. It sends billions of our dollars to foreign countries. And it leaves American small businesses and American drivers at the mercy of fuel price spikes, like the $4 a gallon prices we were paying not so long ago. For those reasons and more, we’ve taken significant steps forward, including a historic effort to make American cars more fuel efficient than ever and cut oil consumption by billions of barrels.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico presents yet another tragic reminder of the hazards of our oil addiction. Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with the friends and families of the 11 workers lost in the initial explosion. In the local meetings I’ve attended since this crisis began, it’s clear to see that the entire community feels these losses deeply. It is all the more upsetting, then, that the community’s tragedy is compounded by the economic and environmental uncertainty that lies ahead.
The fact that a single accident at a single offshore oil well can cause billions of dollars in damage, result in thousands of people losing their jobs and livelihoods and threaten an entire region highlights how important it is that we keep moving America forward, towards energy independence. We can’t afford to go back.
That is why it is surprising to learn that on June 10, the Senate will vote on legislation that would take us back to the same old failed policies and increase America’s oil dependence by billions of barrels. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), with strong support from big oil companies and their lobbyists, has proposed a resolution that would drastically weaken our nation’s historic effort to increase fuel savings, save consumers money, and cut oil consumption from American cars and trucks.
Murkowski’s resolution would take away EPA’s ability to protect the health and welfare of Americans from greenhouse gas pollution. The resolution would ignore and override scientific findings and allow big oil companies, big refineries and others to continue to pollute without any oversight or consequence. It would also gut EPA’s authority in the clean cars program, a program that would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut down on air pollution.
This resolution would take us back to the old energy policies by allowing the polluters to simply pay modest penalties to avoid full compliance with the standards. As a result, the resolution would increase our dependence on oil by 455 million barrels. That dependence rises to billions of barrels when you factor in the Murkowski resolution’s effect on a follow-on program that expands fuel efficiency to heavy-duty vehicles and extends beyond the 2016 model year.
Undermining a program supported by our automakers and autoworkers, environmentalists and governors from across the country seems questionable at any time. But going back to a failed approach and deepening our oil addiction at the very moment a massive spill — the largest environmental disaster in American history — is devastating families and businesses and destroying precious wetlands runs contrary to our national interests. It abdicates the responsibility we have to move the country forward in a way that creates jobs, increases our security by breaking our dependence on foreign oil, and protects the air and water we rely on.
The Murkowski resolution also undermines EPA’s common sense strategy for cutting greenhouse gases. Our carefully constructed approach exempts small businesses, homes, farms, and other small sources from regulation. We know that the local coffee shop or the backyard grill is no place to look for meaningful CO2 reductions. We’re tackling our largest polluters and calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive energy and climate law — one that would extend the protection of small businesses.
At no point in our history has any problem been solved by waiting another year to act or burying our heads in the sand. Our oil addiction is not going to go away unless we act. A broad coalition of industry, government and environmental advocates believe that it can be done — and we have a plan in motion. There is no need for a resolution that would weaken this important program. Now is not the time to go back. Rather than increasing our addiction, we need to keep moving America forward into a clean energy future.