A Step Forward on Energy

I’m a bit bleary eyed admittedly after midnight votes, and about to do an event in Boston on the energy fight, but I just wanted to come here and tell you how good it feels to have gotten something good done in the Senate instead of just stopping bad things from happening.

A year ago I was battling to stop drilling in ANWR. Last night – finally — after years of battling and five years after we introduced the Kerry-McCain legislation to raise fuel efficiency standards — we’ve accomplished something in the Senate on fuel efficiency standards.

This is something that never would’ve happened with Bill Frist as the Majority Leader, but with Harry Reid leading the Senate we were able to finally pass the first significant rise in CAFE standards in over a generation.

I can’t tell you what a difference this makes. Yes, this has been an issue for me for many years, and I took a lot of heat for this during the 2004 race – you might remember the Bush Cheney campaign saying we were going to cost jobs in Michigan, when the truth is this is going to create good jobs in Michigan.

But after all the hits we took, after all the scare tactics, truth won a victory last night. Why? Because all of the activists of the Democratic Party helped to deliver a Democratic Congress, and now we can start the long process of building an energy economy that can work for us in the 21st century and can address climate change instead of making it a hell of a lot worse.

This isn’t the perfect solution to the CAFE debate, and the overall energy bill still lacks some important components. But I never thought this would happen right away, and legislative change can be a long battle of attrition. In fact, you bet that’s exactly what it will be – more on that soon. (In fact, in Boston I’m unveiling a scorecard of what we achieved and what we missed and the work that remains to be done.)

But bottom line, we’re moving the right way on this, and with continued pressure and continued work, we can change the way we get our energy and the way we do business.

The nitty gritty details of what’s in the energy bill can be found here, if you’d like to get the full run-down. But this is an historic moment; fuel fleet efficiency standards have been stagnant for 20 years, while oil prices have skyrocketed and our climate crisis has gotten more acute. Finally, we have a Congress that isn’t burying its collective head in the sand over this and beginning the long process of moving forward.

We also managed to include a great number of other environmental initiatives in this energy bill, including support for furthering the technology on carbon capture and sequestration. (Something I worked with the folks at MIT on and I think holds just huge potential.) There are also provisions providing support for the development of more efficient lighting materials and building materials, as well as authorizing a program for electric drive transportation. And we set specific guidelines for the reduction of gasoline usage from projected levels and required biennial reports on the progress toward meeting those goals.

So what’s next to do? We were very close to getting my major tax package included in this bill, one that rolled back $9 billion of tax breaks for big oil companies and added incentives for plug-in hybrids and many other environmentally beneficial technologies. We are only one vote short of breaking the GOP filibuster on that, and, when Tim Johnson returns to the Senate from his courageous battle back to health, we can try again to pass that.

We still need to pass legislation demanding that our nation gets 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. Proposals to set requirements like that were blocked by (you guessed it!) a GOP filibuster. But the American people are demanding action, so we’re gaining converts every vote.

This energy bill is not the single silver bullet solution to our energy and climate crises. But after years of fighting a losing battle to get any progress toward solving those problems, I am very happy to finally be moving in the right direction. The momentum is on our side on this, and we’ll continue to create truly revolutionary change in our economy.

Thanks for all of your help.

{cross-posted at Gristmill and the Huffington Post}

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8 Responses to A Step Forward on Energy

  1. YvonneCa says:

    Thank you, Senator, for your LEADERSHIP. We aren’t going anywhere…we’ll all be here to continue the fight. 🙂

  2. YvonneCa

    My sentiments exactly!

  3. Nick says:

    Senator Kerry

    First off thank you for your leadeship on this issue and on envrionmental justice issues in general.

    Second, I know you are a supporter of unions (91% liftetime voting rating by the AFL-CIO). I tried explaining (for whatever reason not well) to a friend why it would be of benefit if you were pres. now, and that the Employee Free Choice Act (the new union legislation) would be signed-not vetoed.

    Could you tell us why you support the Employee Free Choice Act?

  4. Gimmy Cotts says:

    It has beem a long, uphill battle and hard to see if we would ever get to this first crest. Thanks for keeping up the fight.

    I think we should all find amother liberal blog to quote this comment:

    We are only one vote short of breaking the GOP filibuster on that, and, when Tim Johnson returns to the Senate from his courageous battle back to health, we can try again to pass that.

    The low opinion of Congress by too many liberals is from forgetting this all important point. Without the 60 votes, all Dems + 9 GOP, the slim majority cannot break a filibuster on anything, or override a veto.

    The ’08 vote will still be about majorities in Congress – this time with stronger majorities so the first branch and executive branch can make some headway on getting a LOT done.

    Meanwhile, the success of getting some positive movement in a critical front.

    I felt really good about the election November and I think the efforts are paying off – even if slower than the impatient ones expect. 🙂

    A bleary eyed night nurse in CO

  5. Ginny Cotts says:

    #4 So bleary eyed I couldn’t tell I spelled my name wrong. 🙄

  6. mbk says:

    Thank you for your long, consistent leadership on these issues. I also appreciate here the mini-civics lesson you’ve offered up here: a clear, real-life account of how the legislative process works in real life, how the legislative progress sometimes has to move step by step. And how important it is not to stop striving towards one’s goals, even when thwarted or slowed by events beyond one’s current control.

    On that note (thinking of larger ways that our country’s interests were thwarted in 2004. . . sigh), I so deeply admire the courageous, yet ever-thoughtful way in which you are continuing to fight for our country, as hard as, and more boldly than, ever. If anyone was so obtuse to doubt that you ran for president in 2004 for a cause larger than yourself, I can just direct them to your tireless, clear-headed activism from November 2004 on.

  7. Pingback: A Step Forward on Energy « Michael P.F. van der Galiën

  8. Darrell Prows says:

    Senator Kerry:

    I agree that you’re one of 535 legislators and that your record on the environment/energy is one of the best in the group. I also believe in trying to make a sober analysis of the pending legislation (assuming that it’s not weakened or vetoed). From my point of view the people braking out the Champagne glasses will be Big Auto, and our side will not have anything to truly celebrate unless and until we find a whole new approach to the situation.

    The fighting continues, but we won the environmental war under Nixon. By the time he was forced from office The Clean Air Act, The Clean water Act, N.E.P.A., The Wilderness Act, and the Endangered Species Act had all been passed, and the EPA had been started. Nixon loved his real war so much that he felt he was only throwing us crumbs to minimize dissent, but there is very little that has happened in this arena since then that really amounts to much more than fine tuning. And that includes what you are trying to do with the CAFÉ standards.

    In essence, the industry has been involved in a strategic withdrawal since that time. The CAFÉ standards you guys are passing now really amount to no more than having their rear guard fall back a few miles, and it has taken twenty years, since the last CAFÉ increase, to gain that ground. Actually, it’s even worse than that because technology exists to meet the 2022 standard today, so they’ve won fifteen additional years at virtually no cost. We’re at a point in time when folks fifty years ago thought we would be using exotic transportation devices and we find ourselves still being held hostage to the internal combustion engine and hydrocarbon fuels. Only people stupid enough to not mind spending exorbitant amounts for fuel are also stupid enough to keep buying the only vehicles that Detroit can still make any decent profit from, and an army of lobbyists exist just because of this fact.

    Again we have a “solution” that asks for no real sacrifice from anyone and even that had to be fought for at great cost. Extrapolate this out to 2050 (a global warming benchmark) and you find us still driving Ford/GM/ETC cars that get the same gas mileage, as an average, that our most efficient vehicles are able to get today. And none of the real answers are “politically possible”.

    I hope that someone in Washington figures out how to get real creative real fast because politics as usual appears to be leading us into a real train wreck.