Events, Speeches &
Senator Klobuchar Introduces Renewable Energy Initiative
June 6, 2007 | Watch
Mr. President, today I come to the floor to discuss some of the changes that need to be made to our national energy policy. The simple truth is, our country is headed down the wrong energy path. Our current path has led to record-high electricity and gas prices. These prices are not only hurting ordinary families, they are also hurting businesses who are seeing their costs go up dramatically. The growth of energy-intensive industries such as manufacturing is actually being stunted due to skyrocketing electricity costs. We already know the negative global impacts our current energy path is having on our environment. It is clear we can't continue down this energy path anymore. It is not good policy. It is not good economic policy, and it is not good environmental policy.
Mr. President, I will be introducing a bill that will lead the Nation down a path to a better, cleaner, more independent energy economy, a path that takes us away from higher electric bills and leads to new opportunities for investment and innovation, more jobs, and more economic development. As the chart beside me illustrates, 52 percent of our electricity is currently generated from coal; 15 percent is from natural gas; 3 percent from petroleum; 20 percent from nuclear; 7 percent from hydro; and 3 percent from renewable energy. Clearly, this is not a diversified energy portfolio. Clearly, something needs to be done about rising energy costs.
It is estimated that Americans will spend over $200 billion more on energy this year than last year. That is an increase of nearly 25 percent. The bill will allow us to meet our future electricity needs. It will allow us to diversify our electricity supply. It will allow us to reduce the vulnerability of our energy system, and it will allow us to stabilize electricity prices, protect the environment, and most of all, stimulate the economies of rural America.
It is time to act. It is time to pass an aggressive renewable electricity standard, one requiring that all electricity providers would have to generate or purchase 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2025. Twenty-two States throughout the country have already demonstrated the value of establishing renewable electricity standards.
This chart shows what is going on around the country. I am looking at Rhode Island, to try one State, a 16-percent standard by 2019. You see California, 20 percent by 2010. You see Washington, 15 percent by 2020. All over the country, we see a change afoot. The checkered States are ones that have voluntary goals, such as Illinois. The striped States have standard goals, and the green States actually have standards put into law.
While the States are already heading down the path toward the new ``green economy,'' the Federal Government has not even made it to the trail head. The Federal Government is stuck in the fossil age.
I am proud to say my State of Minnesota is further down the path than any other State. In February, the Democratic Minnesota State legislature passed and our Republican Governor signed into law what is considered the Nation's most aggressive standard for promoting renewable energy in electricity production. It is a ``25-by-25'' standard. By the year 2025, the State's energy companies are required to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, water, solar, and biomass. The standard is even higher for the State's largest utility, Excel Energy, which must reach 30 percent by 2020. The CEO has been in my office and said it is going to be tough but they are going to make it, and they are going to be able to meet this goal without raising rates.
I admire what the States and communities and businesses are doing across the country. I admire them for their inspiration, and I admire them for their initiative. There is a famous phrase: the ``laboratories of democracy.'' That is how Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis described the special role of States in our Federal system.
In this model, States are where new ideas emerge, where policymakers can experiment, where innovative proposals can be tested.
Brandeis wrote over 70 years ago:
It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.
But he did not mean for this to serve as an excuse for inaction by the Federal Government. Good ideas and successful innovations are supposed to emerge from the laboratory and serve as a model for national policy and action. That is now our responsibility in Congress.
The courage we are seeing in the States, as they deal with global warming, climate change, should be matched by courage in Washington, DC. We should be prepared to act on a national level, especially when the States and local communities are showing us the way.
Now there is an opportunity for the Federal Government to act. It is time for the Federal Government to begin moving toward an aggressive national standard--on par with Minnesota's 25-by-25 standard.
There are many economic benefits of this aggressive standard. Yet, perhaps most importantly, an aggressive national standard opens the door to a new electricity industry that will bring thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into our economy.
Over the last 20 years, America's renewable energy industries--and the wind industry in particular--have achieved significant technological advancements. The industries for solar, wind, and biomass energy systems are expanding at rates exceeding 30 percent annually.
The clean water revolution is still in its infancy. I think of it like the beginnings of the computer revolution when the computer used to take up an entire room. Now they are much cheaper, and they are much more efficient. That is what is happening with our green technology. But it will not happen unless we get into the act and set the standards as they should be.
Businesses are coming on board. CEOs of major corporations such as DuPont, Duke Energy, and General Electric see the opportunities. High-tech entrepreneurs in our country want to develop the green technologies before they do it in India and Japan. It is already starting.
Nationally, venture capital investments in ``green'' or ``clean'' technologies have increased dramatically. Last year, venture capital investment in green technologies reached an impressive $2.9 billion. From 2001 to 2006, there was a 243 percent increase in green technology venture capital investments.
Not only is clean technology the fastest growing venture capital sector, it is now the third largest category--behind only biotech and computer software.
The economic benefits are not just limited to high-risk investors. In September of 2004, the Union of Concerned Scientists used the Energy Information Administration's National Energy Modeling System to examine the costs and benefits of an aggressive national standard. Their analysis found an aggressive national standard would reduce electric and natural gas prices and provide significant economic benefits for all of America.
For example, as you can see from this chart, an aggressive national standard would create 355,000 new jobs--nearly twice as many as generating electricity from fossil fuels.
We would see economic development, such as $72.6 billion in new capital investment; $16.2 billion in income to farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners; $5 billion in new local tax revenue. We would see consumer savings. We would see $49 billion in lower electricity and natural gas bills. We would have a healthier environment. We would see reductions in global warming, pollution equal to taking nearly 71 million cars off the road. We would see less air pollution, less damage to land, and better water use.
So while traditional manufacturing jobs continue to move away from the United States, the country now has an opportunity to become a global hub of new, high-quality jobs in manufacturing and other high-skill areas, while generating environmental benefits at the same time.
So the future looks bright. Never before have we seen such strong interest and growth in renewable energy and energy-efficiency technologies. But the question we face is this: Does the United States want to be a leader in creating the new green technologies and the new green industries of the future? Or are we going to sit back and watch the opportunities pass us by?
In this country, we have the fields to grow the energy that will keep this Nation moving. And we have the wind energy to propel our economy forward. Right here in the United States, we have the science, we have the universities, we have the technological know-how, and we have the financial capital to harness our own homegrown energy.
It is time to act. The only thing holding us back is complacency. A national renewable energy standard will be a major contributor in driving innovation in green technologies.
Now, I know there are critics of a national standard. These critics--who I believe are stuck in the fossil age--believe an aggressive standard would negatively affect the reliability of an energy system. Yet, these critics seem to forget that numerous countries in Europe, including Spain, Germany, and Denmark--where wind power supplies over 30 percent of their electricity--have seen no adverse impacts on the reliability of their systems.
In fact, a renewable electricity standard can actually increase the overall reliability of an electric system. It can diversify our electricity sources so we are not so reliant on energy sources such as natural gas that are vulnerable to periodic shortages or other supply interruptions.
Not only is a national standard more reliable and good for the economy, it will also, of course, protect the environment and public health. Electricity production has a significant impact on our environment. Today, electricity accounts for more than 26 percent of smog-producing emissions, one-third of toxic mercury emissions, and some 40 percent of climate-changing greenhouse gases.
An aggressive standard will reduce CO2 emissions by 434 million metric tons per year by 2020--reductions of 15 percent below current levels. This, as I said, is equivalent to taking nearly 71 million cars off the road.
A couple of weeks ago, Minnesota's own Tom Friedman had a cover story in the New York Times magazine about ``The Power of Green.'' It should be required reading for anyone who cares not only about the future of our environment but also our economic future and our future national security. He talked about the need in this area for setting the standards. When you set the standards, and people can see off into the future, we will see the investment. People say: Well, why do you have a standard set at 2025? Obviously, our bill is going to have a standard growing each year. But the reason you want to go out to 2025 is you want American businesses and capitalists and people involved in this to understand if they invest, where they are going.
In his article, Tom Friedman asks: ``How do our kids compete in a flatter world? How do they thrive in a warmer world? How do they survive in a more dangerous world?''
The answer is in making the most of the economic and technological opportunities to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and the greenhouse gas pollution that comes from it.
Friedman says clean energy technology is going to be ``the next great global industry.'' Well, if that is the case--and I believe he is right--then we need to make America the leader. We cannot afford to sit back and watch the opportunities pass us by.
As I mentioned before, we are seeing unprecedented interest and growth in renewable energy technologies. But at the same time, we are no longer the world leader in two important clean energy fields. We rank third in wind power production, behind Denmark and Spain. We are third in solar power installed, behind Germany and Japan.
Ironically, these countries surpassed us largely by adopting technologies that had first been developed right here in the United States. We came up with the right ideas, but we did not capitalize on these innovations with adequate policies to spur deployment. Our foreign competition was able to leapfrog over American businesses because these other countries have government-driven investment incentives, aggressive renewable energy targets, and other bold national policies.
Friedman proposes a ``Green New Deal''--``one in which government's role is not funding projects, as in the original New Deal, but seeding basic research, providing loan guarantees where needed, and setting standards, taxes and incentives that will spawn'' all kinds of new technologies.
I agree. It is about leading the new economy. It is about making America the global environmental leader, instead of a laggard. It is about creating a better economy for the next generation by inventing a whole new industry, which will not only give us the clean power industrial assets to preserve our American dream but also give us the technologies that billions of others need to realize our own dreams without destroying the planet.
It is about not being complacent. It is about getting on a new energy path. I believe an aggressive renewable electricity standard leads us down that path.
I urge all of my colleagues to support an aggressive standard. I suggest Minnesota's standard: 25 percent by 2025 for renewable electricity. It is a start down the path.
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