Category:  Politics

Planet on the Table

The tabling of the climate bill this week is a good news/bad news kind of story. The legislation had been weakened considerably to make the “cap and trade” concept work, with only utilities getting a carbon cap but with significant offsets so as to diminish any real reduction in greenhouse gases. Still, this was a definitive national policy to reduce carbon emissions, with provisions to promote renewable energy.

And by pushing it aside, the Senate diminishes the debate about our energy future, and perhaps nothing is more critical. The watered-down energy bill may address a few needs, like funding for the Gulf oil cleanup and encouraging home retrofitting for energy efficiencies, but it’s a long way from what needs to be done to put us on the track to energy independence and a renewable energy future.

Anyone who still dismisses the notion of global warming is simply not paying attention – to the mounting scientific evidence and to this scorching year, the hottest in Earth’s history. The United States, as the world’s leading energy consumer (although perhaps already surpassed by China for this dubious distinction), has a responsibility to lead the way in slowing, and then reversing, the emission of greenhouse gases.

How we get there is the essential question. Even if the U.S. economy were humming, creating jobs and prosperity for everyone, we would need to make very hard decisions as we seek to limit fossil fuels. Now, with the Great Recession (and the threat of a double-dip), the choices are even more difficult.

Obviously, public investment in the nascent U.S. renewable energy industries – wind, solar, geothermal, etc. – would help our economy in any case, and should be part of a new jobs stimulus bill. And we shouldn’t forget nuclear, one of the cleanest and safest forms of generation – particularly if we upgrade our technology as the French have done to improve the process and storage.

We can’t stop using fossil fuels entirely, but we can start weaning ourselves off them in a deliberate, economical way. In tabling the climate bill, the Senate is putting off the inevitable, which will loom ever more perilously the longer we wait.

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