Global Climate Change: The Time for Leadership is Now
By REP Policy Director Jim DiPeso
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: This letter to President George W. Bush was written by Jim DiPeso and signed by President Martha Marks
March 6, 2001
President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Global climate change is the pre-eminent environmental issue that our country will face in the 21st century. Republicans for Environmental Protection, was very pleased to hear EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman say that the changing climate is a real problem that America must play a part in addressing.
Climate change is an issue where bold leadership on your part will create enormous economic opportunity for our country. America is ready to meet the challenge of climate change. We have the best scientists. Our businesses lead the world in developing and marketing astonishing technologies. With intelligent federal leadership setting the stage, you can catalyze a burst of innovation that will strengthen our economy and develop hugely profitable industries in clean energy technologies, as well as stabilize the only atmosphere our planet has.
The evidence is increasingly clear that human activity is causing an artificially rapid warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, which is likely to have costly, harmful, and lasting consequences for public health, water supplies, farmlands, coastlines and natural resources. The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that the impacts will be more extensive than were projected only six years ago.
As Ford Motor Company Chairman Bill Ford declared in a speech last fall: “The climate appears to be changing, the changes appear to be outside natural variation, and the likely consequences will be serious. From a business planning point of view, that issue is settled. Anyone who disagrees is, in my view, still in denial.”
While there are those who still refuse to believe the increasingly compelling evidence, denial is a disempowering response to the climate challenge that is unworthy of our country. The doubters, with their doom-and-gloom hand-wringing, are overlooking America’s proud track record in managing tough problems. Anyone who was an adult in the 1970s remembers the gas lines and price shocks of that era. Yet rather than give in to pessimism, we responded. Between 1973 and 1986, our economy grew by more than a third, yet our energy consumption did not rise at all. Why? American businesses and households faced with the challenge became more efficient. Thanks to those efficiency measures, our economy is saving $150 billion per year that otherwise we would be spending on wasted energy.
That was with yesterday’s technology. Energy efficiency, clean energy generation and transportation technologies have advanced tremendously in performance and cost-effectiveness over the past few decades. Therein lie the solutions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, deliver clean, reliable energy, and create huge economic opportunities for our country.
Let me describe these opportunities for you, briefly:
Efficiency: There are abundant, cost-effective opportunities for improving the efficiency of lighting, motors, appliances, and buildings. In 1999, for example, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimated that a thoughtful program of improved energy efficiency standards, labeling, voluntary programs, and economic incentives could reduce carbon emissions 40 percent from 1997 levels by 2020, while creating $500 billion in net economic benefits.
Renewable Energy: Wind energy is cost-effective today. Your home state of Texas is one of America’s leaders in developing utility-scale wind power plants. Minnesota and Iowa are not far behind. In the Pacific Northwest, the federal Bonneville Power Administration has announced its intent to buy 1,000 megawatts of wind energy by 2003. That’s enough to serve all the needs of a city the size of Seattle. Solar is not far behind, as prices continue to fall and conversion efficiencies improve. Between 1998 and 2000, for example, the price of solar photovoltaic cells fell by more than half.
Fuel Cells: Fuel cells will usher in an era of clean hydrogen energy for both electricity generation and transportation. Many of the world’s major auto makers are investing in fuel cell technology, and commercial models will be in showrooms in the next 10 years. Stationary fuel cells are being tried out in real-world commercial and institutional applications, such as wastewater treatment plants, military facilities, and even hotels.
Much is happening in the private sector to transition into new energy technologies. However, federal leadership is necessary to speed up the transition because of the urgency with which climate change must be addressed. Federal action can help overcome barriers such as lack of information and capital investment hurdles. Federal action to reduce our country’s greenhouse gas emissions should be focused on information, incentives and standards that catalyze creativity and development of new business opportunities.
Republicans for Environmental Protection recommends a climate program that includes the following:
- Expanded federal funding of basic research into causes and consequences of climate change
- Expanded voluntary labeling and market partnership programs, such as Energy Star and Climate Wise
- Regularly-updated appliance- and vehicle-efficiency standards, including requirements that light trucks and sport-utility vehicles meet the same fuel efficiency standards as passenger sedans
- Elimination of “grandfather” clean air exemptions for aged, coal-fired power plants
- Redirection of federal “gas guzzler” tax proceeds toward rebates for purchases of fuel-efficient or alternative-fuel vehicles
- Tax credits for purchases of energy-efficient building and manufacturing equipment
- Renewables portfolio standard for electric utilities
- Federal purchase of photovoltaic cells for federal buildings and U.S. military installations worldwide
- Accelerated conversion of federal fleets to hybrid-electric and alternative fuel vehicles
- Phaseout of research and development subsidies for mature energy technologies and redirection of savings toward R&D for emerging efficiency, electricity generation and transportation technologies
- Negotiation of flexible, international carbon emissions trading system that will reward business innovation.
Mr. President, the time for vigorous U.S. leadership on climate change is now. As EPA Administrator Whitman said, the time for debating whether climate change is happening is over. As Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said, we may not get a second chance to address this issue, which is so important for the future of America and the rest of humanity.
We ask you to show the kind of take-charge leadership in the mold of Theodore Roosevelt, and embark on a careful, but determined course of action that will stabilize our climate and create a clean, prosperous economy for America.
Martha A. Marks, Ph.D.
cc: EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman , Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham
We encourage you to read Hubbert’s Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage by former Shell Oil geologist Kenneth S. Deffeyes (Princeton University Press, 2001; ISBN 0-6910-9086-6). As Jim DiPeso wrote in recommending this book: “It’s meticulously researched by a man who knows the oil business inside and out. The conclusion is inescapable — we have to start preparing now for the post-petroleum era. There can be no delay.”
Conservatives should conserve, shouldn’t they? (Plenary speech by Martha Marks at the annual convention of the National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP), held in Arlington, Virginia on June 25-27, 2001)
Energy and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (a letter to Republican senators and representatives, written by Jim DiPeso and signed by Martha Marks)
Energy security, patriotism, and Roosevelt 101 (Five essays by Jim DiPeso, originally published online by Grist)