Gore: Emission Cuts Would Restore America

Al Gore - April 24, 2009
Former Vice President Al Gore called a House proposal to curb greenhouses gases blamed for global warming one of the most important bills ever in Congress.

Gore, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on global warming, testified Friday before a House panel. In testimony prepared for delivery, Gore said the legislation will simultaneously solve the problems of climate change, the economy and national security.

The former vice president described the bill as "one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress," and said it has the moral equivalence of the post-World War II Marshall Plan and civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

He predicted passing it would "restore America's leadership in the world and begin, at long last, to solve the climate crisis."

Gore served in the House from 1977-85 and was a Tennessee Senator from 1985-93 before becoming Vice President.

Gore will urge the House panel to make sure the bill includes provisions to protect those people who will unfairly face hardship, such as workers in energy-intensive industries who could lose their jobs.

Gore's backing comes after three days of hearings about a massive energy legislation during which advocates on the issue debates the bill's merits.

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment has been holding hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security Act which, its backers say, will promote renewable sources of energy and clean electric vehicles while improving electricity transmission; increase energy efficiency; place limits on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming; and protect U.S. consumers and industry during the transition to a "clean energy" economy.

Also appearing before the House panel on Friday are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Virginia Sen. John Warner. All have played leading roles in the issue of climate change - sometimes on opposite sides of the debate.

Gore, perhaps the most outspoken public figure on climate change, will once again tell Congress that legislation is needed now to avert the dire consequences of climate change - among them wildfires, droughts and storms.

He has long blamed the appetite for fossil fuels like oil and coal for the planet's warming. In January he called on Congress to pass legislation to limit greenhouse gases this year despite a faltering economy.

Gore, who starred in an Oscar-winning documentary about global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," won a Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy.

Gingrich, who led the Republican-dominated House from 1995-1999, thinks conservatives should play a role in crafting climate and energy policy, but he is against putting a price on global-warming pollution, one of the mechanisms of the legislation which in effect makes it less costly for industry if they pollute less.

Gingrich last year appeared in a commercial sitting alongside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that was paid for by Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. In it he says that while he doesn't always see eye-to-eye with Pelosi, "we do agree our country must take action to address climate change."

In his prepared opening statement, Gingrich said the bill would not reward innovation in developing new sources of energy, in order to wean the country off of imported fossil fuels. Instead, the former Speaker said, "This bill punishes Americans into living lives that the government wants them to live."

Gingrich said that the energy crisis "was and is purely politician-driven," and warned that if America's domestic energy sources are not opened up further for exploitation, "this bill guarantees that we will remain reliant upon OPEC if we want to continue to drive cars, heat our homes, and run our appliances."

Gingrich's statement also made many reference to a tax, which is not in the legislation, saying that the bill's cap-and-trade provisions (whereby industries can buy and sell allowable limits on carbon emissions, so that those polluting less might profit) amount to an "energy tax" that will cost companies and consumers.

The tax-exempt political organization Gingrich heads, American Solutions for Winning the Future, has been advocating against such a cap-and-trade measure. Last summer, Gingrich's organization received $250,000 from Peabody Energy, the world's largest private-sector coal company, according to IRS documents.

Gingrich was added to the subcommittee's lineup late Thursday at the request of Republicans.

Warner, a Republican, has been a strong advocate for mandatory action to reduce greenhouse gases. He watched last summer as a GOP filibuster in the Senate killed chances for his bill to limit greenhouse gases. The debate then focused on bitter disagreement over the expected economic costs, and similar arguments have been made this week.

Warner will argue that the proposed bill should do more to address national security and that if it did it would garner more public support.

The draft bill calls for a 20-percent reduction from 2005 levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, and 83 percent by mid-century. It also would require utilities to produce a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

This time around, there is a larger Democratic majority and a president who supports legislation to curb global warming.

Among the speakers appearing later today to debate elements of the bill are representatives of auto manufacturers, home builders, the petrochemical industry, and advocates from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

For more info:

  • Summary of American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (pdf)
  • Al Gore's opening testimony (pdf)
  • Newt Gingrich's opening testimony