Today we begin a discussion of an historic opportunity, an opportunity to restore American leadership on something that is so critical for the future of our country and of the world. I just came back, madam president, from Minnesota, where I spent the last week. People are glad that spring is here. But I was surprised by the number of people that came up and talked to me about the climate change issue. They knew this debate was coming up. It's not just kids with penguin buttons anymore, madam president. It's hunters in Hibbing who see the changes to our wetlands.

Mr. President, my state of Minnesota is one of the most aggressive renewable standards in the country. We don't view this as a partisan issue. We view this as a bipartisan issue. Everyone from our republican governor to our democratic legislature to independent city councils all over the state, they want to see action on climate change from Washington. Just a year or two ago this senate was debating whether climate change exists. Now finally today, with a vote on this motion, we can start debating how to solve it.

We had an event today with people from all over the country who talked about the effect that it's had in their communities, the global warming. Someone from Alaska joined us to describe the way climate change has affected whale populations and the fishing traditions that support her community. It actually made me think of my own state where fishing is very important, in Minnesota. I would love to ask the president if she knew how much money we spend on bait and worms alone in Minnesota every year. Of course the rules prohibit her from answering. In fact, the answer is in the state of Minnesota, we spend $50 million a year alone on worms and bait. It gives you a sense of how important in the land of 10,000 lakes fishing and outdoor recreation is in our state. A total of $1.8 billion every year is spent on angling alone. That's why everyone from snowmobilers to hunters, to people who fish to everyday citizens care about this issue in my state and why it is so important to move forward on this legislation. The other piece of it is in our state we're third in the country with wind, we see the potential for jobs. If we set the standards in this country, the investment will follow. You know, you think of what happened when we rose the gas mileage standard years ago. We saved money. And now we're doing it again this year.

You think about when John F. Kennedy stood up and challenged this country to put a man on the moon. We won that space race, but we did more than that. By drawing that line in the sand, by saying that this country was going to move forward, we produced endless amounts of technology, just from that one moment to say we were going to put a man on the moon.  We produced weather satellites, solar technology, digital wristwatches, ultra sound machines, laser surgery, infrared medical thermometers, satellite TV broadcasts, high-density batteries, automatic insulin pumps, CAT scans and my personal favorite, those little chocolate space sticks. That was all because someone in the nation's capital said we're going to move in another direction. We're not going to let another country beat us out and put a man on the moon. We're going to be first. That's what we have the opportunity to do with this debate today. We have the opportunity to start moving and doing is about climate change. And when we set those standards, so many people around the world are waiting for us to act, to go first, as we have so many other times. Other countries have done things. But our country -- the United States of America -- making a statement on this will make a difference for the rest of the world. We need to set our expectations high.

We need to set our standards high. And we have to remember that while climate change, which I don't believe is any longer seriously disputed in terms of the science on global warming, while climate change is a challenge, it is also an opportunity. And I look very forward to the debate that we will have in the coming days. And I thank you again, chairman Boxer, for your leadership.