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Congressman Yarmuth's Op-Ed on the American Clean Energy and Security Act

When President Obama was sworn into office earlier this year, our economy was reeling, unemployment was rising, and America’s status as a global technology leader was being overtaken by China, India and other nations. Last Friday, the House of Representatives voted to reestablish America as the global innovation leader by approving the American Clean Energy and Security Act – landmark legislation which I supported.

The Clean Energy and Security Act confronts these challenges directly and in a comprehensive way that will benefit our nation and our planet for generations.  Through this legislation we will drive advancements in clean energy technology – not wait for them.  This will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create thousands of jobs here in Kentucky and millions more across the nation.  America will once again lead the industry that will dominate the global economy for decades to come -- and we will grow and prosper right along with it.

Prior to the House vote, there was a lot of misleading and outdated information circulating about the bill. But the final legislation looked very different than the original draft.  I opposed an earlier version of the bill that, in the opinion of LG&E and myself, would have unfairly impacted Louisville consumers.  I fought hard for changes in the days leading up to Friday’s vote, and the resulting legislation is something both LG&E and I agree is the best possible bill that could have come out of the House.  We are not the only ones that feel this way.  The Clean Energy and Security Act is supported by unusual allies; from the Union of Concerned Scientists to the Evangelical Climate Initiative and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Dupont, Shell Oil and the Sierra Club; the League of Conservation Voters, UAW and Duke Energy; ALCOA and the U.S. Steelworkers of America. 

Dozens of groups and business leaders have come together because they know this bill is the right choice for the future of our economy and the future of our environment.  Closer to home, GE recently announced 400 new clean energy-related jobs at Louisville Appliance Park, jobs that would have gone to China.  The company wants to continue creating new jobs in Louisville and has made it very clear to me that enactment of this legislation is critical to these efforts.  Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet has confirmed that, given the creation of jobs and the economic opportunities expected to flow to the state in the coming years, the Commonwealth will be a net beneficiary of this bill.

The Clean Energy and Security Act is now pending in the Senate.  And while people often joke that the Senate is the place where legislation goes to die, the consequences of this bill being blocked in the Senate are grave for Kentuckians.

If Congress does not act, the Environmental Protection Agency is required by law to set its own emission standards, which will likely be very strict and not include our hard fought provisions to protect Louisville families from sizeable electricity rate increases.

We can no longer afford to wait and watch our energy jobs exported or hang on the whims of where foreign and unfriendly nations happen to be pricing a barrel of oil each day.  We must act now and at last end our dependence on foreign oil, lower energy costs, and create sustainable jobs.

This plan is not only an investment in clean energy, it is a bet on the American people; a bet, which over the last 233 years, we have won time and time again.  We believe that if we commit ourselves, here in America, with American businesses and workers, we can do better. 

We can leave our next generations with an environment no longer in crisis, with an affordable energy plan fueled by domestic resources, and with a commitment to technology that will create jobs and lead to continued prosperity.

This has always been our responsibility to our children and the future of our nation, but it is a responsibility that we have long failed to fulfill.  If the Senate rises to the occasion and passes this legislation, it will signify a departure from shortsighted policies that have impeded economic, energy, and environmental progress for decades. 

When future generations look back on this moment, they will either see a tipping point or a turning point.  If we do nothing, they will see the tipping point at which we chose to remain at the mercy of oil-producing nations like Iran, allow other nations to beat us to the punch on 21st century technologies, and accelerate the shipping of good-paying American jobs overseas. 

But if we succeed, they will see the turning point at which we as a nation began collectively taking action to retake control of our economy, declare energy independence, and leave a thriving world for our children and grandchildren.  I believe we will succeed.  After all, success, particularly when it is needed most, is an American tradition.