A Strong Climate Bill Can Save Lives
Why we should pass the climate legislation that's right for America, not easy for the Senate.
If there's any Democrat in Congress who never struggles to find his spine, it's freshman Congressman Tom Perriello from Virginia. Despite winning a narrow election in a Republican-leaning district in 2008, he has cast tough votes in favor of both health care reform and clean energy legislation. And as Washington starts to rumble with the possibility of a new push for climate change legislation, he's calling on the Senate do to the same.
I'm sick of starting with what can we get through the Senate; let's start with what solves the damn problem. Until the Senate gets its head out of its rear end and starts to see the crisis we're in, our country is literally at risk. Our economy is at risk, because these jobs are being created overseas. It should have the same urgency with this problem that it had bailing out Wall Street. We are swearing an oath to do what's necessary to protect this country, not do what's necessary to get a bill through the Senate.
Perriello's call to protect America through clean energy is timely, and it has a cadre of unlikely supporters-veterans. I'm one of them. As part of Operation Free, I'm working with hundreds of veterans around the country to deliver a message to the U.S. Senate: If you want to break America's oil addiction and reduce the flow of petrodollars to unfriendly countries and deadly extremists, then it's time to pass comprehensive energy and climate legislation. And if you want to know why veterans are taking the lead in pushing for clean energy, watch the video below:
While the House of Representatives passed energy legislation last summer, the Senate has struggled to follow suit, largely due to the ongoing healthcare debate. Yet there's a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
For the last several months a tripartisan team of Senators-John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)-have been working to put together an energy and climate bill that could get through the Senate with bipartisan support. In October, Kerry and Graham launched an opening salvo in the push for bipartisan legislation, co-penning an op-ed in The New York Times on the need for a clean energy bill.
Their efforts got a shot in the arm in February, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told Kerry that he wants a bill, and soon. Now we know what that bill will look like. After months of playing their cards closely, the three Senators have released a framework for legislative action. It addresses the familiar issues that surround the clean energy debate-jobs and energy independence, coal and nuclear power-but perhaps most importantly, the three Senators are insisting on a bottom line: There must be a market-based solution that puts a price on carbon.
This is good news. As long as oil stays cheap and clean energy remains underdeveloped, America's oil addiction will persist. In the short term, that means we'll continue funding both sides of the wars we're fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the long term, the effects of climate change will deepen, leading to natural disasters, mass migrations, and uprooted populations where extremists can hide and recruit.
The Pentagon made the point quite simply in its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review: "Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment." We hope Congress will take this to heart and do what's right for the country; not what's easy for the Senate.
Jonathan Murray is the Advocacy Director of Operation Free and a Marine Corps veteran.