Two weeks ago, Representative Ed Markey was appointed chair of the new Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. The committee has no legislative role but it does have subpoena power, a $3.7 million budget, a team of investigators, and a two-year term. So there should be ample opportunity to powerfully illustrate the crisis and arrive at some smart policy recommendations. There are already strong legislative proposals out there and Markey’s committee could use these as a starting point for potential Congressional action. “Our job,” Markey says, “will be to take these issues and translate them into a language that has political potency and is accessible to the public.” Here then are some areas the Select Committee could explore in response to the global warming crisis.
There are many good groups doing work on the relationship between job creation and clean energy. The Apollo Alliance – a coalition of labor, environmental, civil rights, urban, farm, faith and business groups – has a plan that has won wide respect. It includes: promoting renewables; upgrading existing energy infrastructure; improving efficiency in transportation, industry, and buildings; research in new clean technology; and Smart Growth for cities and suburbs. Joel Rogers, a member of Apollo’s National Steering Committee and Director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, says, “We estimate that $300 billion spent on our plan would generate about 3 million new jobs…. It would generate a little over $1 trillion in additional GDP over its ten-year development. And, most important, it would reduce our energy costs by better than $300 billion annually. That would effectively… eliminate our dependence on the Middle East… [and] it should reestablish the American position in what is clearly going to be a gigantic world market for clean-energy technology…. Our plan has been out there for about two years now and nobody has seriously questioned any of these numbers.” Van Jones, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, has discussed a Clean Energy Jobs Bill with Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would help “create green pathways out of poverty.” Jones says, “The bill would get hundreds of millions of dollars in green-collar job training down to community colleges, vocational colleges and public high schools across the country. It would establish Clean Tech Training Centers in at least one public high school in every US city. And it would create a National Energy Corps, which would give America’s youth the opportunity to help retrofit buildings and put up solar and wind farms.” The Apollo Alliance and Campus Climate Action are working with the Ella Baker Center to advance these ideas. Elizabeth Martin Perera, Climate Policy Specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), also notes that a cap on greenhouse gasses will open new markets for low-carbon fuels, low-carbon electricity, and renewables. Experts from the Economic Policy Institute have also done very good research in this area.