Local Commentary

Senator Whipple’s Richmond Report

mmwhipplemugThis fall I was selected to serve on a national working group of state legislators to advance federal clean energy legislation, the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now (CLEAN).

Our efforts will focus on moving this country toward clean energy solutions that will create jobs and reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil.

As you know, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR2454) was passed by the House of Representatives this past summer. Now the action has moved to the Senate. Recently the Committee on Environment and Public Works adopted a version of clean energy legislation, and currently a small bipartisan group of Senators are meeting to craft a compromise.

Our group, chaired by Rep. Jeremy Kalin of Wisconsin, has had weekly conference calls since late September. In October about 30 states were represented at a meeting in Washington where we discussed energy policy issues and then met with our Senators to endorse meaningful clean energy and climate change legislation.

Many state legislators believe that a new clean energy economy will provide many of the jobs in the 21st century. In Virginia we have many potential resources, including off-shore wind and biodiesel, that I have written about in other columns. Currently clean energy jobs are one of the few areas of job growth in this struggling economy.

States have been the laboratory for clean energy policy and programs. Many states have enacted renewable portfolio standards that require utilities to get a portion of their electricity from alternative and renewable fuels. States have enacted incentives to get both residents and businesses to install or use alternative fuels. And states encourage energy efficiency and conservation.

Now states believe it is time for the federal government to address these issues and provide a predictable, national framework that can spur innovation and discovery in the clean energy sector.

We believe that America’s dependence on foreign energy makes our nation vulnerable in terms of economics and national security. According to the Energy Information Agency, our federal energy trade deficit is approximately $1 billion a day. To fuel our economy, we depend on unstable, unfriendly nations. As a result, in the words of former CIA Director James Woolsey and Senator John McCain, we are funding both sides of the war on terror.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, the Coalition of Legislators for Energy Action Now states “The climate change threat presents significant national security challenges for the United States — challenges that should be addressed today, because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay.”

The clean energy and climate challenge is America’s new space race, and we must respond as a nation.

Senators Webb and Warner are currently considering their positions on the Senate legislation that is still being drafted. Now and in the several weeks ahead is a good time to let them know of your interest in clean energy, climate change and energy security.

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