Democratic News

Striking the right balance among energy, environment and the economy has been a long-standing concern in the Senate and in society. A prime weakness of S. 14, the Republican energy bill, is its failure to acknowledge the connection between energy production/use and climate change. The reason climate change is so closely related to energy is that the two most prominent greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide and methane – are released largely due to energy production and use. In the United States, 98 percent of CO2 emissions are energy-related. Every study of how to mitigate climate change comes up with a list of policy recommendations that relies heavily on increased energy efficiency and new energy production technologies with lower greenhouse gas emissions. Because of this intimate connection, energy policy and climate policy are interlinked. To do one is to do the other. And to ignore one while doing the other is to risk unfortunate and unintended consequences. We are disturbed that, as a result of White House staff intervention, the EPA’s recent “Draft Report on the Environment” does not include substantive treatment of the issue of climate change. We’re told that a long section of the report describing the risks from rising global temperatures was reduced to a few noncommittal paragraphs. In November 2001, when then-Administrator Whitman commissioned the report, she stressed the need to bring together national and regional efforts to describe accurately the condition of critical environmental areas and human health concerns. The goal was described as: "Using available data and indicators, EPA and its partners are drafting a report on the environment that will address many of the public’s frequently-asked questions and document national environmental and human health conditions." [www.epa.gov] EPA further indicated that the report was supposed to evolve through a process that involved stakeholders and experts. The experts EPA consulted clearly thought that the scientific basis existed to include climate change as a major topic in the report. The Administration and Congressional Republicans cannot continue to ignore climate change as a factor in our nation’s environmental health. To publish a Report on the Environment without any meaningful discussion of climate change is comparable to writing a report on world oil supply and not mentioning OPEC. We think that the decision to remove substantive information on climate change from this report cannot be justified. And we think that an energy bill without a climate title irresponsibly ignores one of the greatest long-term threats to global well-being. When the Senate gets back to legislating on energy, Senator Bingaman and others plan to fix that.