Cross-posted from Daily Kos.

The past few months the political debate inside and outside the beltway has largely been centered on health care reform, but I wanted to take a moment and turn the discussion to the big battle looming on the horizon.  

Congress is gearing up to take on another critical challenge we’re facing; transforming our energy economy and addressing the grave threat of climate change. As a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, I’ve been working with my Senate colleagues to craft a bill that will create clean energy jobs, reduce air pollution and liberate our country from depending on dirty coal and foreign oil.

The House passed an energy bill earlier this year and we in the Senate are building on those efforts.  The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, introduced by Sens. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Boxer (D-Calif.), will significantly invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies such as wind, solar, and biomass as well as invest in public transportation.  These investments are critical if we want to strengthen America’s energy independence, reduce harmful air pollution and create clean energy jobs in local communities.

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Specifically, the Kerry-Boxer bill will stimulate even more investment in clean energy by creating a pollution reduction and investment program that would go beyond what the House proposed, to cut pollution 20 percent by 2020.  And the bill will go even further to strengthen national security and reduce oil dependence with a plan to help cities and states plan for cleaner and more efficient transportation infrastructure, like public transit systems.

In Sen. Boxer’s chairman’s mark of the bill, we continue this approach, by increasing direct investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency and creating new direct investment in public transportation and other transportation infrastructure that reduces oil dependence and global warming pollution. We also create an incentive program for forest and agriculture land-owners to undertake projects that reduce emissions beyond that achieved by the pollution reduction program and offsets under the bill.

I should add that after this bill passes out of the Environment and Public Works committee, it will be joined with provisions to create a national Renewable Electricity Standard. I am determined to make that provision better than what has been proposed to date.  

All of the things I mentioned in the bill add up to a major change in our nation’s energy policy. They put us on a path to building industries and creating clean energy job, weaning our nation from foreign oil, and reducing pollution in order to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming.

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As we continue on a path forward to fight climate change and invest in innovative technologies, we will constantly be challenged by the influential fossil fuel interests.  Just like we’re witnessing with efforts to reform health care — there are powerful lobbyists doing everything in their power to water down and block effective climate change legislation.  

We cannot let them control the message in the media and we cannot let them control our future.  I will do everything in my power to speak out and explain to my colleagues that as much as the special interests try to portray this issue as complicated and confusing, we face a clear and simple choice.

It’s a choice between clean air or dirty air.

It’s a choice between creating jobs here in America or shipping those jobs overseas.

It’s a choice between strengthening our national security or remaining addicted to foreign oil.

I know you all have lives to lead — children and parents to care for — deadlines to meet — and I can’t thank you enough for speaking out, organizing together and pressuring your Sens. and Representatives.  I know many of you have spent countless hours fighting for health care reform, but I hope you’ll find the energy to join me and shine a light on the choice Congress has when it comes to passing climate change legislation.  Your activism and passion is truly appreciated and I know we’ll need you once again to tackle this enormous challenge.