Democrats Should Work With President to Develop Realistic Climate Change Policy

June 13, 2007

Democrats Should Work With President to Develop Realistic Climate Change Policy

Sensenbrenner: Time to ‘Abandon Ideological Outposts’

Washington, D.C., June 13 - U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, delivered  the following speech today at the 18th annual Energy Efficiency Forum:

“Thank you for the invitation to speak this morning. For 18 years, the Energy Efficiency Forum has helped remind us that energy is a precious resource that we should all use wisely. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to again add my voice to this important message.

“Energy efficiency is an important message that rings true every time. Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal, everyone agrees that energy shouldn’t be wasted. It’s common-sense and it’s something we can all generally agree on: energy efficiency works.

“As many of you know, in this Congress I have a new venue to promote the importance of energy efficiency, as the ranking Republican on the newly created Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

“As our nation searches for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming, we should be sure to pay close attention to the benefits that can be wrought from improved energy efficiency.

“The Environmental Protection Agency said that 2005 figures show energy efficiency programs, like the Energy Star program, are helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA reports that energy efficiency helped take the emissions equivalent of 23 million cars off the road in 2005, and saved consumers about $12 billion in the process. So regardless what you think of global warming, energy efficiency is a pro-consumer policy that should get vigorous support from both political parties and all citizens in this country.

“As the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming examines climate change policy, it is my hope that my colleagues in Congress recognize the importance of energy efficiency. Promoting energy efficiency, and the technology that supports it, will be one of my priorities this Congress.

“As some of you may not know, I didn’t vote to create this select committee because I thought its jurisdiction was redundant to that of existing standing committees.  But once it was approved, I was anxious to serve on it because conservative Republicans like me have important messages about climate change too, even if we don’t expect to win Oscars by giving them. Also, as someone who has studied the climate change issue for many years, going back to when I was chairman of the House Science Committee, I was anxious to add my historical perspective to the select committee’s proceedings.

“One topic that I had the opportunity to study as Science Committee chairman is the Kyoto treaty. In fact, when I first spoke at this Energy Efficiency Forum nine years ago, I had a message about the Kyoto treaty and other climate change proposals, and that message still rings true today.

“Back then, I said any climate change solutions have to be realistic, affordable, globally inclusive and produce tangible results. Nine years later, all I can say is ditto.

“However, while my position on this may not have changed much since then, the political climate has changed a great deal, making this message even more relevant today than it was nine years ago.

“This was my take on the Kyoto treaty in 1999.  ‘The Kyoto treaty is based on immature science, costs too much, leaves too many procedural questions unanswered, is grossly unfair because developing countries are not required to participate, and will do nothing to solve the speculative problem it is intended to solve,’ I said at that time, and I stand by that today.

“Since then, we’ve had the chance to see the beginning of the Kyoto treaty implementation, and the results aren’t pretty or effective. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, only six countries are on target to meet their Kyoto goals, while nine countries are more than 10 percent off of their target, and other countries including Japan, Canada, Italy and Spain have exceeded their carbon emissions goals by 20 percent or more.
 
“Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal noted that despite the Kyoto treaty, Europe managed to increase its emissions by 2 percent in the period from 2000 to 2004 as compared to the previous period of 1995 to 2000. Meanwhile, the U.S. reduced emissions by 8 percentage points in the first part of this decade, as compared with the last half of the prior decade.

“Europe is up 2 percent, the U.S. is down by 8 percent. I think that speaks volumes about what’s going on here and the other side of the Atlantic.

“Just last month, the Energy Information Administration reported that despite the fact that the U.S. economy grew by 3.3 percent, we were still able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.3 percent.

“Given these numbers, it’s fair to say that my opinion of the Kyoto treaty hasn’t improved since it was negotiated and signed in 1997.

“But that’s not to say that my opinion on the need for action hasn’t changed either. Climate change science is complicated and nuanced, and I still have many doubts about the dire predictions of catastrophe that some people read into some scientific data.

“However, the scientific evidence that humans are in some ways contributing to warming is getting stronger, as is the case for voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“But if we are really going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this country and around the world, we need to do it through realistic policies that promote common-sense solutions. If we are really going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need policies that can achieve results without undercutting the economy.

“Simply put, if we are really going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we need to find out what works.

“Perhaps the thing that frustrates me most about the Kyoto treaty is that it was clear from the outset that it was an unworkable treaty, and U.S. negotiators – including former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth – failed to fix it at the negotiating table.

“The treaty was fatally flawed and unrealistic, and U.S. negotiators, including Mr. Gore, had plenty of evidence of that, beginning with a 95-0 vote in the Senate on a resolution that said any treaty must include emerging heavy greenhouse gas emitters like India and China and shouldn’t harm our economy. It’s worth noting that in 1998, the Energy Information Administration, led by a Clinton political appointee, reported to Congress that the Kyoto treaty stood to raise gasoline prices by as much as 66 cents a gallon, to raise electricity by 20 to 86 percent, and that the gross national product could drop by as much as 4 percent by 2010.
 
“Look what would happen to the manufacturing sector of our economy if energy prices went up by the amount that the Energy Information Administration reported in the United States, while failing to go up in China and India. I think manufacturing would have had a major outsourcing in the blink of an eye, because the cost of manufacturing products was so much less in the third world countries exempt from Kyoto.

“After hearing these numbers, many in Congress had serious concerns, and we raised our voices. But those concerns fell on deaf ears.

“Had Mr. Gore been listening, he could have pursued actions that limited the impact on the economy and struck an arrangement that would have included all of the major greenhouse gas emitters.

“Instead, as Vice President of the United States, Mr. Gore seemed determined to implement the flawed treaty, despite knowing of the bipartisan concerns it raised. With that backdrop, it’s not surprising that President Clinton never sent the fatally flawed treaty to the Senate for ratification and that President Bush abandoned the treaty.

“Let me repeat, President Clinton made a policy decision not to send the treaty to the Senate, because he knew it would be defeated there.

“But abandoning the Kyoto treaty doesn’t mean abandoning the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. What we should abandon, however, are some of the ideological outposts that have crept up along the path to a global warming policy.

“Republicans are often chastised as being in denial on global warming, but it seems a Republican president has been able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while still growing the economy, something the Europeans have seemingly failed to accomplish, despite their interest in doing so.

“President Bush recently committed to hosting talks this fall with the 15 largest greenhouse gas emitters and he agreed with other G-8 nations on the need to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2002, President Bush committed to reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of the U.S., and so far, it’s working.

“By including China and India in the solution, President Bush is proposing something realistic that can attract bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.

“With all of this, I think it’s plain to see that Republicans have left their ideological outposts are now searching for a solution that works. I invite my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to do the same.

“But there’s another ideological outpost that needs abandoning if Congress is to find a workable solution to climate change. There are some, including a former politician whose name I’ve mentioned several times today, that the science says the only solution to climate change is massive and immediate regulation and taxation.

“It is time for all of us to abandon those old ideological outposts and find a place where we can meet to craft meaningful and effective solutions.

“There are still strong indications that cap-and-trade, a carbon tax and other regulatory policies will have a negative effect on the economy. In fact, one recent evaluation of a proposal from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted it would result in gas price increases of $1 a gallon. I would not call this a workable solution or a place where we could all meet.

“Maybe the people who are proposing this don’t do what practically every Unites States Senator and member of the House of Representatives does, and that’s facing our constituents at open forums like town meetings weekend after weekend and recess period after recess period. It’s not going to be an easy sell to say I want to raise gas prices another $1 a gallon and get re-elected next year.

“Already, there are indications that technology and voluntary efforts are effective in producing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as seen in the EIA’s recent report. We know that technology stands to greatly improve energy efficiency while also producing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is an area where I think we can all meet. The promise of technology should not be forgotten as we examine global warming policy solutions. Neither should we forget that any climate change policy must produce real results, include major emitters like China and India, and accomplish these goals without sapping the economy of its strength and throwing people out of work.

“It’s not an easy task, and it’s certainly one that won’t be accomplished if we become fortified in ideological outposts. But President Bush is actively looking for a place where we can meet, and with the help of some of my Democratic colleagues, I believe we can find that place with people on both sides of the aisle.

“Thank you for your attention. God Bless America.”

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Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming - Republicans
H2-344 Ford House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-0110 | Fax: (202) 225-0095

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