Our Work

There Is No Better Time for a Shift in Energy Policy

From the 6/13/2010 Burlington Free Press
By Elizabeth Courtney
The Gulf Coast oil catastrophe is the epitome of what’s wrong with our national energy policy. For many, it’s also become the most prominent and deeply devastating ‘wake-up call’ for kicking our addiction to oil now.
Ironically, the most damaging oil disaster in U.S. history is taking place while Congress finally contemplates comprehensive energy and climate legislation; an effort to cut our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce carbon pollution and transition our country to clean, homegrown power.
The nation — and the world — needs this transition to happen today. Our future depends on it.
As evidenced in the most powerful way in the Gulf, the consequences and costs stemming from our addiction to oil are simply too large for lawmakers to ignore for one more day.
Equally as important and troubling are the opportunities the nation is leaving on the table without a strong commitment to a clean energy future.
In Vermont, a shift in America’s energy policy could mean thousands of new, skilled jobs for Vermonters, expanding our niche market in the inevitable, global, renewable energy future and much more.
But despite all this, the effort to craft strong energy and climate legislation is languishing in Congress, undermined by too little leadership, lack of vision and courage.
Last June, the U.S. House passed a historic clean energy and climate bill and, last November, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a strong bill. Unfortunately, the full Senate has failed to act. Thankfully, there are voices of reason and courage in the Senate that could prove pivotal in seizing this critical opportunity to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate policy.
Two of the Senate’s strongest leaders are Vermont’s own.
Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a 36-year veteran of Washington DC, has a sterling record on the environment and the deep respect of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Bernie Sanders, who sits strategically on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is a bold clean energy and climate action advocate.
The leadership that Senators Leahy and Sanders provide could be the impetus to passing strong, much-needed energy and climate legislation this year.
This is a defining moment. The worst environmental debacle in U.S. history continues to unfold along the Gulf Coast, costing the U.S. millions in lost income, devastating the livelihoods of thousands of Americans and threatening our shores, ocean ecology, birds and sea life.
How do we respond to this catastrophe? As tragic as this disaster is, it gives us an opportunity to dramatically alter the course of our energy future. If we seize it.
As Senator Sanders noted in a recent op-ed, “Instead of staring mesmerized at the tragedy in the gulf, like spectators at a train wreck, we should be trying to regain that innovative can-do spirit that made America the greatest of nations.”
That is the much-needed attitude this nation needs. It is also emblematic of leadership and thinking that Vermont’s esteemed Senators can and must bring — with even greater intensity — to the tenuous dialogue underway in Congress. The end result will depend on it.
Without leaders like Senators Sanders and Leahy redoubling their commitment to clean energy innovation and a strong mechanism to regulate damaging greenhouse gas emissions — and putting pressure on their colleagues to do the same — hope dims significantly… and opportunity likely evaporates.
Now is the time to truly put oil behind us.
Now is the time for a significant shift in our national energy policy.
Now is the time to act swiftly and boldly.
Let us not second guess missed opportunities. Let us not fail to act together to turn the eye-opening Gulf Coast travesty into a hard, but powerful lesson. Let us ensure we seize this critical moment to embrace a new energy policy by calling on Congress to pass strong and forward-looking clean energy and climate legislation this year.
There is no better time.
Elizabeth Courtney, Vermont Natural Resources Council
Also supported by the Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont League of Conservation Voters and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.
Elizabeth Courtney, VNRC
Montpelier, Vermont
Phone: 802-223-2328 ext. 112