The following guest post is by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), originally published on Climate Progress. He is the co-author of Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy.
Now that our New Year’s Eve party hats are put away, it’s time to look to the next year in the battle against global warming. In the year 2007, some good things did indeed happen on this front. Measures significantly improving car mileage standards and promoting the growth of renewable fuels were signed into law. But if 2007 was a year that could be considered in some ways good, then 2008 needs to be a year that will be great.
Nothing else will do. The cataclysms of one million square miles of ice melting in the Arctic, a several-fold increase in the rate of melting tundra, and the acceleration of melting in Greenland, foretell possible feedback mechanisms that demand a faster and more aggressive clean energy revolution than we even envisioned a year ago. Whatever we thought necessary on New Year’s Day 2007 needs to be doubled in 2008.
So what will it take to make ’08 great? Three things will do the trick.
First, each of us can take some individual small step down the clean energy road. For my wife and myself, our small step was spending the last two days of 2007 stuffing insulation under our home’s flooring. It was low-tech, and not particularly creative, but it promises to save several tons of CO2 over the lifetime of our leaky, creaky old house, while keeping our toes warm in the process.
Second, George W. Bush will have to have an epiphany.
His veto threats against everything, from a renewable portfolio standard to replacing tax breaks for oil companies with ones for clean energy companies, evinces a total failure to recognize his responsibility to lead a national effort against global warming. Much more, his refusal to assist these relatively modest efforts is an ominous indicator that he will continue to “stand in the school house door” against the passage of a cap-and-trade system, the granddaddy of global warming measures.
It is true that nobody has gotten rich betting that this president will embrace science when it comes into conflict with his old political cronies. But we do not have the luxury of indulging in the comfort of low expectations, even for a president who has so often not just ignored science, but has actively suppressed it. We are duty-bound to soldier on, pass the most aggressive cap-and-trade system possible, and again pass the Renewable Portfolio Standard and tax measures we previously passed in the House, all in the hope that a combination of pressure from major progressive corporations, the public, and a dose of divine intervention can bring the light of understanding into the White House.
This is “no regrets” strategy. In the best case scenario, the presidential epiphany arrives, In the worst case, we have plowed the ground in preparation for the next president to get the job done. Either way, we will have done what we should do — everything we can.
Third, we need the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt to arise in the breasts of just a few more Republican senators, so that we can break a filibuster of these vital provisions. We fell just one vote short on the RPS last year, for example. With the ghost of the Old Rough Rider leading the charge, the Grand Old Party could again regain the legacy that gave us our national park system and the Environmental Protection Agency, two things that occurred under Republican presidents. If not, the American people in 2008 will have to put a few new leaders into the Senate, leaders who understand that eight years of inaction on global warming during the Bush administration were eight years too many.
One thing we know will happen in 2008 as a lead pipe cinch: while these policy battles are going on, the brilliant Americans who have been inventing the new revolutionary clean energy technologies will be busy. We can assuredly look forward to advances in solar thermal power at Ausra Energy, advances in wave power at Finavera, advances in lithium battery technology at A123 Battery, and advances in cellulosic ethanol at Range and Iogen Companies. The shifting of economic tectonic plates will continue at a rapid pace because of the genius of inventors and the courage of entrepreneurs. We just need to create the conditions where their work can blossom. After co-authoring the book Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy, I can warrant that if the policies finally level the playing field so that fossil fuels do not enjoy such an outrageous advantage in subsidies — both direct and indirect — over renewable energy sources, we will see an explosion in clean technologies that could rival the growth in the internet.
This is why global warming is as much an economic opportunity for the nation as an environmental challenge. It is our destiny to provide the world with the clean energy technologies it will need to tame the beast of global warming. We should be selling to China the technology it will surely need to replace the coal-fired plants that threaten to doom the planet. In doing so, we will grow our economy as well as save the earth.
It’s a great planet. It deserves a great year. Let’s make it great in ’08.