Weekly Column of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) December 9, 2007

"The Wise Approach to Climate Change"

Posted on December 7, 2007

I’ve been ready to take a giant step on climate change since the first year I became a Senator and introduced the Clean Air Planning Act of 2003 with one of my colleagues. But a more recent bill – the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007 – brought before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, of which I am a member, may be too risky, too costly and likely to cause unintended consequences. Climate change is a problem, but I think there is a wiser approach. I voted against the Lieberman-Warner bill during Wednesday’s hearing. I believe that legislation tailored to effectively reduce emissions from key sectors, rather than the economy-wide approach of the Lieberman-Warner bill, would be more likely to address climate change without having negative economic impacts. Tailoring our approach to just power plants and transportation would cover about two-thirds of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. That would be a lower cost, simpler approach with fewer surprises, and it would have a better chance of getting 60 votes on the Senate floor. Since 2003, my first year in the Senate, I have introduced legislation during each 2-year Congress to put a cap on carbon emissions from electricity power plants. In April, along with Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), I introduced legislation to reduce air pollution and the threat of global warming by enacting strict standards on four major pollutants from power plants. My legislation would strengthen and put into law new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants, and establish the first-ever caps on carbon emissions from power plants. In addition, I would like to broaden my own legislation by including: A low carbon fuel standard requiring transportation fuels to decrease gradually the amount of carbon in the gasoline or diesel that they contain. Transportation produces one-third of America’s greenhouse gases. An aggressive approach to building energy efficiency. During this week’s Committee on Environment and Public Works meeting, I successfully offered two amendments to improve the Climate Security Act. These amendments would foster more research and development of cleaner biofuels and would establish a low carbon fuel standard for the transportation sector. Using domestic low carbon fuels reduces oil consumption, lowers expenditures on oil imports and saves consumers dollars. It is time to put performance standards into place that will guarantee that new choices at the pump will be cleaner and more sustainable. I also plan to offer on the Senate floor a tax relief amendment designed to help lessen the increases in energy costs for low-income taxpayers. The Lieberman-Warner bill includes measures that essentially act as a tax on electricity, and electric companies would pass this added cost on to consumers in the form of higher energy prices. If we are to raise taxes we ought to give relief to the people who need it the most. As we work to combat climate change and clean our air, we need to make sure the legislation we put forth doesn’t have unintended consequences.