I was in the audience today, as Senator John Kerry delivered a powerful speech at Faneuil Hall in Boston on what America needs to do to free itself from foreign oil dependence, combat global warming and climate change and push for more efficient energy usage in the U.S.
Before the speech we were treated to a young man from Vermont who came to read a letter he sent to the Senator recently. Jesse Rogers, all of 8 years old, sent Kerry a copy of Dr Suess’ The Lorax, because it’s a good book about the environment. Young Jesse certainly charmed the crowd.
The Senator delivered his speech before a large and receptive crowd that cheered his suggestions for actions that can be taken by the US Congress now to get the nation to adopt more fuel-efficient CAFE standards, increase the use of ethanol and other renewable fuels and put America on a course that truly recognizes the importance of energy independence.
Last December, Sen. Kerry delivered remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City that basically called on the United States to change it’s policy in the Middle East and to stop enabling regimes that repress their people and stop progressive growth in those governments in that region.
In April at Faneuil Hall, earlier this month at the Take Back America Conference, and then most recently on the floor of the Senate last week, Kerry has repeatedly called for the US to re-evaluate its course in the Iraq War and to recognize that we need a political and not a military solution in order to begin to end this occupation.
This speech addresses another aspect of this: the need for the US to recognize that we have a dependence on foreign oil and that we must change course and begin a program of conservation and development of renewable energy sources.
Kerry linked the twin goals in his speech:
“We can’t respond to climate change, and we can’t wage and win a real war on terror if we don’t at last take bold, real steps towards energy independence. For too long, we have allowed fundamental problems in the Middle East to fester by signaling corrupt Arab regimes that we don’t care what they do so long as they keep the oil flowing.
So, energy independence is more than an important economic priority; it is an indispensable element of our national security. Our reliance on oil not only props up decaying and dictatorial regimes, but those that tolerate and sustain terrorist groups. Any long-term strategy for winning the war on terror must be matched with a determined effort to reduce our dependence on petroleum. It demands an international response, linked to the rapid emergence of new energy technologies, in order to ensure that emerging economies don’t become the new enablers of Middle East autocrats. Make no mistake, our long term mission in the war on terror depends on long term energy independence. We must end the empire of oil.”
The Massachusetts Senator proposed three ways that he believes will help the US to achieve its goals of being energy independent:
“Today I want to focus on the three big steps that are imperative to addressing global warming and transitioning to dependence on homegrown sources of energy. First, I believe we need to establish an oil goal and implement an aggressive set of policies to reach it. Second, I believe we must immediately expand the availability, production, and distribution of renewable fuels to run our cars. And third, we need to get serious about climate change and take measures to freeze and reverse our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Kerry proposes mandatory, not voluntary measures that he believes will force the US to reduce dependence on foreign oil by 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, an amount that he said is equivalent to the amount we get from the Persian Gulf today.
The steps to achieving this, according to Kerry, are:
Significantly ramping up production of Flex Fuel vehicles that can run on renewable and biofuels.
Mandate that 10% of major filling station offer at least one ethanol pump by 2010.
Revisit the “third rail” of American energy policy, CAFE standards for US cars and begin to bring those up from the 1980 levels that they are presently stuck at.
Provide tax credits to help the US automakers build more efficient hybrid cars.
Kerry called on the Congress to repeal the recent tax breaks for the Big Oil companies in order to fund a security and conservation trust that can help America make hybrids more affordable.
Sen. Kerry gave due credit to former VP Al Gore for his commitment to the issue of global warming and climate change. New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and Bangkok are all at risk of being submerged if the threat of global climate change isn’t realistically dealt with and changed.
In all, Kerry gave a strong speech that tried to build a link from the issue of national security to the environment and how one affects the other. I hope everyone will take the time to either listen to the audio of the speech or read the text.