The U.S. News and World Report this morning hosted a national issues briefing titled “Going Green: America’s Cities and the Role of Government” at the National Press Club in downtown Washington D.C.
The panel included Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) of the U.S. Senate, member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) of the U.S. House of Representatives, member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and Jay Inslee of the U.S. House of Representatives, member of the Committee of Energy and Commerce.
The keynote speaker was Carol Browner, former administrator of EPA and current director of the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy for the White House.
Klobuchar said she is hopeful to see the energy bill sometime this year. She mentioned the United States is going to fall behind the rest of the world if it does not move on this quickly.
Inslee said, “Failure is simply not an option.” He went to China with Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to see what types of things the Chinese are doing and they all had the mentality “we are going to dominate clean-energy technology.” Inslee suggested the Chinese intend to dominate this space and the United States is just now getting into it.
“We either need to get into this race now, or we will just be left at the post and it will be difficult to catch up,” Inslee said.
China is using technology, such as the solar panels, that was invented by Americans. Therefore, the United States should not be falling behind other countries.
Inslee also spoke about the current state of the oceans. The Pacific Ocean is currently 30 percent more acidic than pre-industrial times. Carbon dioxide pollutants from the air make the water this acid, and “we need to put a price on carbon,” Inslee added.
Blackburn suggested what is needed is incentives, not punishments. She recommended for everyone to keep in mind how potential laws and new taxes can impact individuals. Blackburn said she believes America needs to incentivize innovation and not put a price on carbon.
Following Blackburn’s points, Klobuchar responded by agreeing she supports incentives because they call action. For example, energy rebates and the Cash for Clunkers programs motivate people individually through tax rebates.
Inslee said there needs to be a cap on carbon emissions and pollution because it works, as seen in the past with acid rain. He said it is important there is one cap for all industries to avoid playing favorites; the market will decide what technologies do the best job. Blackburn said whatever policy goes into place there been ramifications and the United States needs to be very careful with what steps it takes.
Keynote speaker Browner left with final thoughts that healthcare has been addressed and now is the time to focus on the future of energy. She said she hopes to see a draft of the bill very soon.
During the Q&A session, one guest asked about the public perception of climate change after some scientists have undermined it and the outcome of Copenhagen. Browner answered by saying, “Even if you don’t believe, we are behind because we have not put in place a policy.”
Browner said America does not want to be importing clean-energy technologies from other countries, especially if it is technology it has invented. It was evident at today’s briefing the time has come for a clean-energy revolution.