The House of Representatives passed key legislation on Friday to move the nation towards a clean energy economy that will put Americans back to work, protect our environment and help preserve national security. The bill is a landmark first step by Congress to curb climate change by limiting emissions of the heat-trapping gases which cause global warming.
The "American Clean Energy and Security Act" passed by a simple majority, 219-212 (3 members did not vote). Western New York Congress members Higgins (D-Buffalo, NY-27) and Slaughter (D-Fairport, NY-28) voted for passage, while Lee (R-Clarence, NY-26) and Massa (D-Corning, NY-29) voted against the bill.
The bill proposes to save billions of dollars in energy costs, cutting waste for consumers and businesses through investment in energy efficiency for vehicles, buildings, appliances and industrial processes. Consumer rebates allow the majority of Americans to achieve energy cost savings, and clean energy investments will reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Incentives for clean energy technology will spur innovation, create new jobs and ultimately reduce carbon emissions.
The bill proposes a cap-and-trade system to limit emissions of global warming pollution and allows the emitting industries to trade pollution permits. The emission cap would be lowered over time, increasing the cost and moving industries towards clean energy sources or new technology.
Opposition to the bill focused on fear of the possibilities that it would lead to higher energy prices for consumers as well as loss of jobs. However, independent studies from the Pew Charitable Trust and the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that the clean energy proposal would result in cost savings and job growth. Also another analysis from the Congressional Budget Office showed that the bill would reduce budget deficits, or increase future surpluses, by about $24 billion over the 2010-2019 period.
President Obama also expressed a very different view from that of the opposition. He said, "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."
A video of the President's address on the bill's passage, a link to the transcript, and a U.S. map showing how Congress members voted are here.
Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope said, "This bill sets the stage for the dawn of the clean energy future. While imperfect, it sets forth a set of goals America must achieve—and exceed”.
Next, the bill will move on to the Senate for further consideration.
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