Written by J. Drake Hamilton for Fresh Energy:
On February 9, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D–Minnesota) addressed one of her top priorities in a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate (watch the video at the bottom of this post):
…the critical need to get serious about building a new energy agenda for America, one that keeps our businesses competitive in the global economy, preserves our environment and restarts the engine that has always kept our country moving forward, that is innovation.
She spoke in support of energy tax credits, including extending the production tax credit that made it possible for wind energy to account for more than one-third of all new electricity generation capacity installed in the United States in 2011.
Senator Klobuchar praised the state’s leadership in reducing mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants:
Minnesota has…some of the most stringent mercury rules in the country. In 2006 our state legislature passed a law requiring our largest power plants to cut mercury emissions 90 percent.
She credited new rules made possible by the Clean Air Act:
The federal government is finally catching up and will publish a requirement in the coming days to make similar (mercury) reductions by 2016.
She spoke about how the failure to build a new energy economy will harm many industries important to Minnesota, especially agriculture:
But until we get serious about building a new energy agenda for America, we’re going to continue to struggle with the consequences which have created a vicious cycle of economic and environmental costs, not least of all those caused by climate change.
Climate change, as you know, isn’t just about melting glaciers and rising ocean levels. Shifting global trends have the potential to wreak havoc on local economies, particularly those anchored in agriculture. The facts stand for themselves…The Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Department of Commerce estimates that at least one-third of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product is weather and climate sensitive with the potential impact of $4 trillion a year. Much of that impact would be wrung out of our farm communities and from states with large rural populations like my own.
Any farmer will tell you that a change in weather can mean the difference between a bumper crop and a complete disaster…So it goes without saying that any kind of significant swing in climate paired with increasingly unpredictable rainfall could pose a problem to Americans who make their living off the land.
She talked about how Minnesota’s policies have clearly demonstrated that clean energy is a source of job growth:
My home state is proof that policies promoting homegrown energy can also promote business growth and job creation. The unemployment rate in the state of Minnesota is 5.7 percent, well below the national average, and part of that is thanks to our energy policies. A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trust shows in the last decade, Minnesota jobs in this sector grew by 11.9 percent compared to 1.9 percent for jobs overall.
Klobuchar called Minnesota’s Renewable Electricity Standard, which requires 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 — 30 percent for Xcel Energy –
…one of the most aggressive in the country—and yet our unemployment rate is so much better than the rest of the country…Our renewable energy standard was actually nearly unanimously adopted by the legislature, Democrats and Republicans, and signed into law by a Republican governor, Governor Pawlenty.
Senator Klobuchar also championed the bipartisan work that forged the Clean Air Act:
In the past, Democrats and Republicans have managed to come together to confront tough challenges. From the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s to keeping Social Security solvent in the 1980s to welfare reform in the 1990s. But perhaps the most fitting example in the context of combating climate change is the Clean Air Act…When the bill passed in the 1990s, it had strong bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
It’s worth mentioning that all ten members of the Minnesota (Congressional delegation at the time, which included five Democrats and five Republicans, supporting the bill, including Republican Senator Dave Durenberger, who is among its chief authors and staunchest supports. Since then, the Clean Air Act has helped prevent more than 18 million child respiratory illnesses and 300,000 premature deaths.
We applaud Senator Klobuchar’s leadership in encouraging America to be more forward-thinking and
…come together and hammer out hard-won solutions to tough challenges.
Nowhere is this more important than our quest to move America forward through smarter energy and environmental policies. The finish line won’t be Neil Armstrong hoisting a flag on the moon. It will be building a next generation of energy-efficient windows and doing it in northern Minnesota instead of China, or an electric car battery factory in Memphis, Tennessee, instead of Mumbai, India, or a wind turbine manufacturer in San Jose, California, instead of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
What we need now is a comprehensive national blueprint for energy policy in this country, a solution that preserves the integrity of our air, of our water and natural resources, that gives businesses the incentives to research and develop new source of energy that invest in the next generation of American innovation. That is our challenge. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I believe that we will get it done. We have before. We will do it again.
Watch the video of Sen. Klobuchar here.