Senator Bingaman's Floor Statement on Climate Resolution

June 23, 2005
03:21 PM

Mr. President, I went ahead and allowed the clerk to complete the reading of the amendment because it is short and because it is important that Members focus on what is contained in the amendment. We just had a significant debate on the Senate floor with regard to the proposal made by Senators MCCAIN and LIEBERMAN to cap greenhouse gas emissions. Some voted for it because they believed that this was an appropriate proposal. Others voted against it--some because they did not believe the issue is a valid one; some because they did not believe the effect on the economy was one they would favor; others because of the workability of it.


   I have worked with Senator Domenici during recent weeks to see if we could come up with a proposal based on the National Commission on Energy Policy recommendations which would have done some of the same things but would have been a more modest beginning at containing and constraining carbon emissions going into the atmosphere.


   We were not able, frankly, to get agreement among enough Senators that the proposal, as currently drafted, is workable in all respects. Therefore, Senator Domenici has indicated here on the Senate floor that he will try to have hearings and that we will be able in the next several months going forward to consider this with great deliberation in our Energy and Natural Resources Committee. There are other committees with jurisdiction as well over this same set of issues. I am sure they will have the opportunity to work on it.


   The resolution that is before the Senate right now and that we are scheduled to vote on in another half hour is an effort to see if we can get agreement on some basic propositions. In my opinion, it is important that we demonstrate agreement on basic propositions in order that we can move ahead and deal effectively with this important and complex issue.


   The propositions were as read. Let me go over them once again for my colleagues so that everyone knows what is contained in the resolution. Before I go through that, let me indicate the cosponsors of this resolution are Senators DOMENICI, SPECTER, ALEXANDER, CANTWELL, LIEBERMAN, LAUTENBERG, MCCAIN, JEFFORDS, KERRY, and SNOWE. I ask unanimous consent that they all be listed as cosponsors of the amendment.


   The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


   Mr. BINGAMAN. The amendment is a sense of the Senate. It reads:


   Findings. Congress finds that greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere are causing average temperatures to rise at a rate outside the range of natural variability and are posing a substantial risk of rising sea levels, altered patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation, and increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts.


   I know this is an issue that some in this Senate disagree strongly with, and I am sure my colleague from Oklahoma will take great exception to this. I believe the science is well established that this is the case, and the National Academy of Sciences has stood behind that basic statement.


   This is the second statement in the resolution:


   There is growing scientific consensus that human activity is a substantial cause of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere.


   Again, we may have Members here in the Senate who disagree with that conclusion. They are certainly free to do that. But I hope a majority of the Senate agrees with it.


   The third finding set out in this amendment is that ``mandatory steps will be required to slow or stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.''


   There are some who have spoken in the Senate today who have said that mandatory steps are not required, that this problem will be solved by voluntary action, that the marketplace is solving this problem as we speak, and we do not need to be concerned about enacting any kind of    mandatory provisions. I respectfully disagree with that perspective. I respectfully suggest that this is an issue that is going to require action of a mandatory nature by this Congress, and we need to acknowledge that.


   The final part of the amendment is the sense-of-the-Senate provision. It says:


   It is the sense of the Senate that Congress should enact a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions at a rate and in a manner that, No. 1, will not significantly harm the U.S. economy and, No. 2, will encourage other action and key contributors to global emissions.


   I will point to two charts that are an outgrowth of the work of this National Commission on Energy Policy in order to indicate to my colleagues why we have the language of this provision written as it is.


   This first chart is the Commission climate proposal timeline. What they have proposed in their recommendations is a system which has been criticized by some in the environmental community for being too weak and too modest. I can understand those criticisms. But it is a proposal that would slow the rate of increase of emissions for the first 10 years. Then about 2020, you would be into a period where emissions would no longer be growing, and then you would go into a phase where emissions would begin to decline.


   As I say, some who are on the environmental side say that is too modest, we can't do that little. But others, of course, say it is too onerous, and we can't do that much. What we have tried to do with this sense of the Senate is to say, OK, some think it is too onerous, some think it is too much. Can we at least get agreement that we have to put in place some type of system, some type of mandatory limits that will, in fact, begin to slow the rate of emissions, eventually stop the rate of emissions, and bring emissions down? That is what we are trying to do.


   There is one other chart I wish to show. That relates to the harm to the economy. I know that much of the discussion on the McCain-Lieberman amendment was that if we were to enact that amendment, it would have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy. I disagree with that. But I am suggesting that there are ways--and the National Commission on Energy Policy concluded that as well--that we can responsibly act to contain emissions and to constrain the growth of emissions without significantly affecting our economy in an adverse way.


   This chart shows that graphically. What it basically shows is that the economy is expected to grow very dramatically between 2005 and 2025. You can see that the growth of the economy will be $312.47 trillion. That is business as usual. We asked the Energy Information Agency, which is part of our own Department of Energy and the executive branch of our Government, to model this and determine what they thought the effect of the National Commission's recommendations on greenhouse gas would be to those figures. How much would it impact the economy? They concluded that under the NCEP proposal, you would see a very slight reduction in the amount of growth in the economy. So over that 20-year period, it would be $312.16 trillion instead of $312.47 trillion of economic growth in this country. You cannot have a more modest proposal than that as far as impact on the economy.


   I am not here trying to persuade Members that this is the only way to proceed. I am saying this is evidence that we can, in fact, design a proposal for constraining the growth in greenhouse gases that will not adversely affect our economy, and that is exactly what we should be about, is trying to put that into place.


   This resolution is nothing but a sense-of-the-Senate resolution. But it is important that we pass it. In my opinion, it is important that we pass it because the Senate is on record in 1997 as voting unanimously against going forward with the Kyoto treaty. I was one of those who voted not to proceed with signing on to the Kyoto treaty. That does not mean we should not take this step. This step would be the responsible thing to do. It would say this Senate is resolved to move ahead and try to enact legislation that will deal with this serious problem. And we recognize that doing so will require some mandatory limits on emissions.


   I know that is something some Members in the Senate do not agree with. It is my hope that a majority of the Senate does agree with that, and it is my hope that a majority of the House of Representatives will agree with it, and that eventually we can persuade the administration to agree with this point of view as well. We need to move ahead with this issue--the sooner the better. This is a responsible way to do so.


   I very much appreciate the good faith with which my colleague, Senator Domenici, worked with me to see if there was something that could be jointly proposed to deal with this issue as part of the Energy bill. It was his conclusion--which is certainly understandable--that there was too much complexity involved at this point and too many unanswered questions for us to proceed with an amendment to solve the problem as part of the Energy bill.


   But I am very pleased that he is willing to cosponsor this sense-of-the-Senate resolution, indicating that even though we are not able to do it as an amendment to the Energy bill, we can in fact plan to go ahead.


   Mr. President, with that, I will reserve the remainder of my time.