Open Letter to Senator Inhofe
On December 5, Senator Inhofe cited our book during Senate hearings on global warming. Here's our response:
December 6, 2007
Senator James Inhofe
453 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3603
Fax: (202) 224-5167
Dear Senator Inhofe:
During yesterday's Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007, you cited a passage from a New Republic piece we wrote in advance of our book, Break Through, From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility in support of an amendment by Senator Voinovich. The Voinovich amendment would have required certification of available clean energy technologies before emissions caps would go into effect. While we certainly appreciate your willingness to consider our arguments calling for an innovation and technology centered approach to addressing climate change, we want to make clear our argument on investment and cap and trade legislation such as Lieberman-Warner.
We make clear in both the New Republic piece you cited, and in our book, that addressing climate change will require a substantive federal commitment that involves both investment in clean energy technologies, which you appear to favor, and regulations to decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. In the book we note "[t]here is no doubt the need to reduce and stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions will require a major regulatory effort to make sure that everyone is playing by the same rules, provide regulatory certainty so that nations and businesses alike can plan their investments, and increase the costs of fossil fuels relative to cleaner energy sources. But regulation cannot be the sole policy egg in the global warming basket, for without investments to encourage technological breakthroughs, we won't come close to achieving the emissions reductions we need to stabilize the climate."
To be clear, we advocate an aggressive regulatory policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But we also favor, as you noted, an aggressive investment to bring new, clean and cheap energy technologies to market. Based upon extensive summaries by innovation experts in the academic, energy and international communities, we estimate that at least a $300 billion investment over ten years by the federal government is necessary to achieve the kinds of technological innovations necessary to quickly bring make cheap, clean energy technologies widely available in the near term. We've attached a letter from some of America's leading scientists that persuasively makes the case for this level of investment.
While we have been disappointed that some environmentalists have failed to address the need for investment in new clean energy technologies, we've been equally disappointed that many politicians using innovation and entrepreneurship rhetoric have failed to back up their strong words with a substantive commitment to investing federal resources to achieve clean energy innovation. Your remarks at the hearing indicate that you agree with us regarding the importance of technological innovation and economic opportunity. We hope your words of support will be backed with support for substantive investment -- in the neighborhood of $30 billion per year -- in research, development and deployment of clean energy technologies.
As I'm sure you're aware, we have substantive disagreements with you over the causes, solutions, and need for action around global warming. But even those who deny the human causes of global warming can recognize the need for America to achieve energy independence and the importance of establishing the United States as a world leader in the rapidly growing clean energy economy. A robust federal investment will help achieve these two important national priorities.
Finally, we recognize that such an investment is sizable and that decisions regarding the federal budget do not occur in a vacuum. With ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan placing a strain on the Treasury, we think it important to look at the potential auction of cap and trade credits as the primary means to fund clean energy investment. As we noted in the New Republic article you cited, "what matters most about the global-warming legislation being considered in Congress is how much money it will raise to invest in clean energy. Auctioning emissions permits to polluting firms could generate" the revenue necessary for investment. Given your stated support for innovation, we hope we can count on our support for an aggressive early auction schedule that will raise the revenue necessary to invest $300 billion over ten years to ensure that the technological innovation and economic opportunity you cited in your remarks becomes a reality. If, however, you feel that other revenue streams would better raise the $300 billion necessary to combat the problem, we'd be willing to listen to your ideas.
As a Senator, you've undoubtedly heard more than your fair share of empty promises of support failed to be followed by substantive action. You've made clear your support for innovation in the area of clean energy, and we look forward to hearing of your substantive proposals to make that innovation a reality.
Again, thank you for advocating our call for a global warming strategy that focuses on investment in technological innovation and economic opportunity. We hope that we can count on you to back up your strong words with substantive action as the debate over climate change continues.
Attachment: Energy Scientist Letter
Cc: The Honorable Barbara Boxer, Chair
Members of the Environment and Public Works Committee