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President Obama makes a strong, public call for a yes vote on ACES

June 25th, 2009 · 1 Comment

President Obama made quite favorable comments about the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act at the opening of his press conference. (And, of course, no journalist thought this issue meriting a question …) Today, the President made a strong statement calling on all members of the House to vote for this legislation. In his comments (full text after the fold), the President emphasized that this is “jobs bill”, tying this quite directly to prospects to dig ourselves not just out of the climate hole, but our unemployment hole. The President’s statement is a strong one, a powerful discussion of the value of meaningful, strong climate legislation. And, it will (should) be hard for any Democratic member of the House to ignore his call for a yes vote.

Remarks of President Barack Obama Statement on the Energy Bill Thursday, June 25, 2009 Washington, DC Good afternoon. Right now, the House of Representatives is moving towards a vote of historic proportions on a piece of legislation that will open the door to a new, clean energy economy. For more than three decades, we have talked about our dependence on foreign oil. And for more than three decades, we have seen that dependence grow. We have seen our reliance on fossil fuels jeopardize our national security. We have seen it pollute the air we breathe and endanger our planet. And most of all, we have seen other countries realize a critical truth: the nation that leads in the creation of a clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy.


Now is the time for the United States of America to realize this too. Now is the time for us to lead.

And, as polling shows, most Americans agree with this.

The energy bill before the House will finally create a set of incentives that will spark a clean energy transformation in our economy. It will spur the development of low carbon sources of energy –- everything from wind, solar, and geothermal power to safer nuclear energy and cleaner coal. It will spur new energy savings, like the efficient windows and other materials that reduce heating costs in the winter and cooling costs in the summer. And most importantly, it will make possible the creation of millions of new jobs.

The energy efficiency measures in the bill are tremendous. The clean energy provisions are, well, not so overwhelming. And, while the bill should help foster new jobs, a more aggressive clean energy structure would have meant 100,000s more.

Make no mistake: this is a jobs bill.

So, members of the House, voting for this bill means voting to employ Americans in good jobs.

We’re already seeing why this is true in the clean energy investments we’re making through the Recovery Act. In California, 3000 people will be employed to build a new solar plant that will create 1000 jobs. In Michigan, investment in wind turbines and wind technology is expected to create over 2,600 jobs. In Florida, three new solar projects are expected to employ 1400 people. The list goes on and on, but the point is this: this legislation will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy. That will lead to the creation of new businesses and entire new industries. And that will lead to American jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced. I have often talked about the need to build a new foundation for economic growth so that we do not return to the endless cycle of bubble and bust that led us to this recession. Clean energy and the jobs it creates will be absolutely critical to this new foundation.

Dealing with climate change is central to Obama’s vision. I do believe that.

This legislation has also been written carefully to address the concerns that many have expressed in the past. Instead of increasing the deficit, it is paid for by the polluters who currently emit dangerous carbon emissions. It provides assistance to businesses and families as they make the gradual transition to clean energy technologies. It gives rural communities and farmers the opportunity to participate in climate solutions and generate new income. And above all, it will protect consumers from the costs of this transition, so that in a decade, the price to the average American will be just about a postage stamp a day.

Several points here.

1. It has been written carefully to satisfy special interest after special interest, carving out new entitlements worth $100s of billions of dollars. Lets not lose sight of the compromises made away from the soundest economic, energy, environmental approaches to satisfy the whims of those showing little concern for or understanding of climate change’s impacts.

2.  The President’s speech writers are falling into a wrong framing. The CBO study, which the postage stamp a day refers to, is very pessimistic (some say “conservative”). It does not include, for example, the energy conservation provisions of the bill which, in themselves, might have greater value than ‘a postage stamp a day’.  And, it doesn’t get into more complex issues like health benefits from lowered fossil fuel pollution, productivity improvements due to healthier Americans and more comfortable work environments, nor that pesky little issue of reducing climate change impacts. No, if anything, even with its flaws, the ACES might end up a net positive for the average household, rather than ‘costing just about a postage stamp a day’.

Because this legislation is so balanced and sensible, it has already attracted a remarkable coalition of consumer and environmental groups; labor and business leaders; Democrats and Republicans.

Well, why has it gotten such a coalition? Environmental groups see this as the only chance for meaningful action and many are willing to sacrifice virtually anything, it seems, to get a ‘cap and trade’ structure in place, hoping (planning, they might say) to strengthen it in the future. Special interests are supporting because, well, the bill well represents their special interests.  But, this is a compromised bill. No one has everything that they want, which is the American way (at least outside the Bush-Cheney interregnum).  The quesion which many have: have the compromises gone too far?

Now I urge every member of Congress -– Democrats and Republicans- – to come together and support this legislation. I cannot stress enough the importance of this vote. I know this will be a close vote, in part because of the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth.

Whether Obama’s or speechwriters’ words, thank you for calling out that “misinformation”.  It is not economy or environment, but economy and environment.  There is so much disinformation pervading this discussion that it is almost impossible to have a full conversation with a diverse group without truthiness skewing the conversation into unproductive and confused realms.

But my call to those Members of Congress who are still on the fence, as well as the American people, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past. We have been talking about this issue for decades. Now is the time to finally act.

“Cannot be afraid of the future …. must not be prisoners of the past …”  I agree, it is “time to finally act.”

There is no disagreement over whether our dependence on foreign oil is endangering our security. It is. There is no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy. It’s happening. And there is no longer a question about whether the jobs and industries of the 21st century will be centered around clean, renewable energy.

“There is no …”  What a wonderful, straightforward, powerful framing.

The question is – which country will create these jobs and these industries? I want that answer to be the United States of America. And I believe that the American people and the men and women they sent to Congress share that view. So let’s take this opportunity to come together and meet our obligations – to our constituents, to our children, to God’s creation, and to future generations. Thank you.

President Obama has made a strong call. Provided a stark choice.  While this bill is far from what it should be, the President has made his call … in the open. We will soon see which Representatives were listening.

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