U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Senate Republican Conference Chairman, made the following opening statement in a hearing held yesterday on the Kerry-Boxer climate bill in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, of which he is a member:
“I have no problem with the problem; my problem is with the proposed solution.
“The National Academies of Sciences of eleven industrialized countries, including the United States, have said that climate change is real and that humans have probably caused most of the recent warming.
“If fire chiefs of the same reputation of the National Academies said my house might burn down, I’d buy some fire insurance. But I would buy insurance that worked – not insurance so expensive that I couldn’t pay my mortgage or hospital bill.
“That’s my problem with this solution: It’s going to make it harder for Americans to support their families. When it’s all wrapped up and put together, it will be a combination of economy-wide cap and trade and mandates for narrowly defined renewable energy sources, a well-intentioned one-thousand pages of taxes, mandates and surprises.
“At a time of 10 percent unemployment, this bill will raise utility bills, send manufacturing jobs overseas, and create a new slush fund in Washington for corporate handouts.
“It will be ineffective against emissions from fuel, which produce 30 percent of our carbon emitted today, because raising the price of gasoline doesn’t change human behavior enough to reduce carbon.
“If it’s like Waxman-Markey, which EPA says it mostly is, then according to President Obama’s own budget director, it’s the largest corporate welfare program in history. According to CBO, it could reduce our gross domestic product by 3.5 percent—the Brookings Institution says that’s $300 billion a year to buy allowances.
“So, the strategy is taxes, expensive energy, and mandates to make 20 percent of our electricity from subsidized windmills. But our strategy should be cheap energy—to create jobs and eliminate hardship.
“So before we deliberately embark on a program to send jobs overseas and make it harder to pay our bills, why don’t we try a cheap strategy for clean energy:
• One, build 100 new nuclear plants in 20 years.
• Two, electrify half our cars and trucks in 20 years. We can do this without building one new power plant by plugging in the cars at night.
• Three, explore offshore for natural gas—it’s low-carbon – and for our own oil.
• Four, launch mini-Manhattan projects like the one we had in World War II. Secretary Chu calls them innovation hubs, to find ways to recapture carbon from coal plants, to make solar power cost competitive; to make electric batteries better and to recycle used nuclear fuel.
“Instead, altogether, we are looking directly at a national energy tax plus national windmill policy. Generating 20 percent of our electricity from wind would:
• Require 186,000 fifty story wind turbines that would cover an area the size of West Virginia;
• Require 19,000 miles in new transmission lines;
• Result in $170 billion in taxpayer subsidies;
• Turn our ridge tops, coastlines and treasured landscapes into junkyards in the sky;
• Kill upwards of a million birds a year;
“And since the wind turbines would only work about a third of time, we will still have to build natural gas, coal or nuclear to back them up.
“What happened to nuclear?
“If we were going to war, and we had created a nuclear navy 60 years ago that was doing exactly what we wanted it to do—and sailors had lived safely on top of these reactors for 60 years—would we stop building nuclear ships and start subsidizing sailboats for our national defense?
“Building 100 nuclear plants is the fastest, cheapest, most reliable way to reduce carbon from utilities, just as electrifying half our cars and trucks is the fastest way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
“China is building 132 nuclear plants, France is 80 percent nuclear and has among the lowest electric rates and lowest carbon emissions in Western Europe. Japan, Taiwan, India, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia are all building nuclear plants. The United States invented the technology, and we haven’t started a new nuclear plant in 30 years.
“If we went full speed ahead, by 2030, nuclear would produce about 40 percent of our electricity, natural gas 25 percent, hydroelectric 10 percent, and wind and solar five to 10 percent. We’d come close to meeting the Kyoto Protocol goals for carbon emissions by 2030 just with nuclear plants and electric cars.
“And presidential leadership could do it. The president can remove barriers, for example, by allocating resources to speed up approval of designs for new nuclear plants. Together with Congress, he can provide incentives, such as $100 billion in loan guarantees for all forms of carbon-free electricity. And he can fund mini-Manhattan projects – or innovation hubs as Secretary Chu calls them – for clean coal, cost effective solar, better batteries and the recycling of used nuclear fuel that doesn’t isolate plutonium.
“At a town hall meeting in New Orleans, President Obama said the United States would be ‘stupid’—his word—not to use nuclear power. I was glad to hear him say that.
“With presidential leadership, we could build 100 new nuclear plants, electrify half our cars and trucks, find new low carbon natural gas and launch the mini-Manhattan projects for low cost alternative energy to meet our clean energy goals. All without creating a national energy tax and running jobs overseas.
“All 40 Republican senators agree on this four part agenda. So do many Democratic senators.
“Then why are we pursuing a high-cost national energy tax and subsidizing 186,000 windmills when we can agree on a low-cost clean-energy plan that would create good jobs and low electric bills?
“So my suggestion is to abandon the 1,000 page bill of surprises, taxes, and mandates that is a high-cost, low-carbon energy plan and pursue a common sense, low-cost, low carbon plan.”