Making Sense The New Energy Future

Bill Scher

Editor’s Note: We’re publishing a series of “Making Sense” fact sheets on key economic issues to help you win the debate on the core issues facing middle-class families. Each fact sheet contains information, talking points and resources you can use to make the case for progressive policies. Last week: Curbing Wall Street and Social Security. Today: Clean energy jobs and the climate protection bill.

The Challenge

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America has a big job to do – end our dependence on dirty foreign oil and prevent an economically devastating climate crisis. At the same time, we have millions of unemployed Americans desperate for jobs. Now is the time to build the clean energy economy, creating millions of jobs for out-of-work Americans, freeing consumers from being at the mercy of oil price spikes and toxic spills, and averting the looming climate crisis.

The Argument

The best way to bring jobs and prosperity back to this country is to end our dependence on foreign oil and simultaneously protect the earth we leave to our children.

We need to build things in America again, starting with wind turbines, solar panels, and energy-efficient products that say “Made in America.” Our country has led every technological revolution of the last two centuries—electricity, railroads, telephones, automobiles, television, computers. But we’re risking our leadership in the new energy economy by not doing enough to encourage domestic manufacturing of the products our innovation makes possible. Doing so would foster more research and innovation—a virtuous cycle that creates more jobs and keeps us competitive globally. It’s time to harness the greatest source of power we have: American ingenuity.

There’s nothing more important we can do for our national security than to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And we can’t afford to continue relying on fuels developed a century ago that pollute the air our children breathe and destroy our atmosphere. One of our most fundamental traditions is to leave our children and grandchildren with an earth as safe, beautiful, and majestic as the one our parents and grandparents left to us. It’s time we invest in clean, renewable fuels that never run out. It’s time to put our children’s future ahead of oil industry profits. We have a sacred obligation to steward the earth wisely, and it’s time we honor that obligation.

The Obstacles

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to cap carbon pollution, but conservatives prevented Senate leaders from bringing a similar bill to the floor for an up-or-down vote. The oil, gas and coal industries—long subsidized with our tax dollars—spent over $500 million lobbying Congress in the last two years, more than 10 times the money spent by renewable energy companies.

Lobbyists for those dirty-fuel industries regularly spread falsehoods about the cost of a carbon cap to American households and businesses, and funded conservative front groups that baselessly smeared climate scientists.

A loud chorus of conservative ideologues continue to champion the notion that global warming is a fantasy. The truth is, objective scientists are virtually unanimous in concluding that warming is occurring and that at least part of the problem is man-made. It’s the conservatives who have been accusing these scientists of "cooking the data" who have been discredited. It’s time for conservatives to acknowledge the scientific facts and agree with Americans that we need to take steps today to solve the problem.

Progressive Solution

The genius of America is to turn crisis into opportunity. If we launch a concerted drive for energy independence, we can transition our nation to clean, affordable energy alternatives, maximize energy efficiency, and address the recession by creating millions of “green” jobs.

Capping carbon emissions and investing in new energy would help create millions of American jobs and make clean energy affordable and accessible to homes and businesses, without putting added costs onto families.

By capping the carbon pollution that causes global warming, we’ll end the unfair subsidies for dirty energy, and create the market incentives for clean American energy that private sector entrepreneurs need to compete fairly.

By making polluters pay for their greenhouse gas emissions, we’ll have the revenue to help create American jobs producing clean energy and making our homes and businesses energy-efficient.

Fast Facts

Public Pulse

  • 65% say "the federal government should regulate the release of greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories in an effort to reduce global warming?" (ABC/W. Post, Dec. 2009)
  • 60% say "the government should regulate the release of greenhouse gases" even if it "raised your monthly energy expenses by 10 dollars a month." (ABC/W. Post, Dec. 2009)
  • 58% support "cap and trade" if it "significantly lowered greenhouse gases but raised your monthly electrical bill by 10 dollars a month." (ABC/W. Post, Aug. 2009)
  • 60% support "cap and trade" in which "the federal government would limit the amount of greenhouse gases that companies could produce in their factories or power plants. If companies exceeded those limits, they would either pay a fine or pay money to other companies that produced smaller amounts of greenhouse gases." (CNN, Oct. 2009)
  • 63% support "an energy proposal designed to reduce carbon emissions and increase the use of alternative and renewable energy sources, even if it means an increase in the cost of energy". (NBC/WSJ, June 2010)
  • 61% support legislation that would "limit pollution, invest in domestic energy sources and encourage companies to use and develop clean energy. It would do this in part by charging energy companies for carbon pollution in electricity or fuels like oil." (Benenson Strategy Group, May 2010)
  • 52% support "setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies pay for their emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices," while only 35% oppose. (Pew Research Center, Feb. 2010)
  • Voters in Ohio, Michigan and Missouri support—by 67% or more—legislation to "require factories and power companies to reduce their emissions of the carbon pollution that causes global warming…" (Mellman Group, Nov. 2009)
  • By 30 points or more, voters from swing congressional districts in Florida, New Mexico, Ohio and Virgina would back a progressive candidate supporting a "clean energy jobs and global warming bill" over a conservative candidate that claimed the bill would "create a new energy tax that will raise energy prices for consumers by thousands of dollars…" (Mellman Group, Aug. 2009)
  • 59% of voters agree that after the BP oil spill, "now is the time for Senators to take action. Oil companies and lobbyists have fought energy reform for decades to protect their profits," while only 31% agree that "senators would be wrong to try to use this tragedy to pass a huge new Washington program and job-killing energy tax." (Benenson Strategy Group, May 2010)

Resources

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