Energy & Environment
As the only a member of the Senate majority to serve on both the Environment and Public Works and the Energy and Natural Resources Committees, Sen. Sanders is uniquely positioned to fight for progressive energy polices and increased environmental protection - issues of great importance to him and to all Vermonters.
Sen. Sanders is a leading voice on the need to address global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The first bill he introduced as a member of the U.S. Senate was a greenhouse gas emissions reduction bill, and he continues to press for action to move our nation toward energy independence. He also believes that by increasing our energy efficiency and use of sustainable energy, our nation can create millions of new, good-paying jobs in America.
The scientific evidence is clear that global warming is real, and significantly-driven by human activity such as burning fossil fuels. This is the conclusion of scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Sen. Sanders introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act as the first bill he proposed after he was sworn into the Senate. It was the most progressive and comprehensive legislation introduced in Congress at that time, aiming to reduce greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Since then, the need to address the planetary crisis of global climate change has become even more urgent. Surprisingly to many, climate change is not just a purely environmental issue. It has the potential for deep geopolitical and economic impacts. The military believes global warming could result in food and water scarcity, mass migrations of people and wars fought over shrinking natural resources, all of which could destabilize global security. Sen. Sanders believes we are already feeling the economic impacts of climate change. He has met with leaders of a diverse array of industries who have great concerns that global warming is creating increasing extreme weather disturbances and in the process escalating property damage.
All across the planet we are currently seeing record heat waves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme droughts and floods, and damaging wildfires. Sen. Sanders strongly believes that the United States must lead the world in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reversing global warming, to preserve a safe and stable planet for our children and grandchildren. He continues to work at, and play a leading role in, transforming our energy system away from polluting fossil fuels, and to energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. In the transportation sector, he is committed to higher fuel economy standards and more efficient transportation technologies like plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, as well as investments in transit, energy-efficient rail and public transportation.
Sen. Sanders was the architect of innovative weatherization and energy efficiency finance programs that help homeowners, small businesses and schools access funding for energy efficiency retrofits. Sen. Sanders' efforts have helped over 15,000 Vermont households save on their energy bills in just the last ten years. Recently, Sen. Sanders passed legislation to create a pilot program that promotes "on-bill financing." Under this program, utility customers would be able to install alternative energy sources like solar panels and geothermal pumping systems at their home or business and repay the cost in monthly installments on their utility bill. Sen. Sanders also joined with Vermont's Gov. Peter Shumlin to host a Vermont Clean Energy Finance Summit, which brought together scientists, bankers, economists, utility executives and senior government officials to examine new ways for Vermont to lead the way toward clean energy by helping fund energy efficiency and sustainable energy projects.
End Fossil Fuel Welfare, Invest in Sustainable Energy
Sen. Sanders introduced the End Polluter Welfare Act, which would save taxpayers more than $113 billion over 10 years by eliminating subsidies for the oil, gas and coal industries. Instead of continuing to heap subsidies on the fossil fuel industry, one of the most profitable in history, the senator believes we should invest in clean, sustainable energy. To that end, Sen. Sanders introduced the Ten Million Solar Roofs Act, which has bipartisan support, and has been approved by the Energy Committee. The legislation helps reduce the cost of solar energy for homes and businesses. Sen. Sanders also supports the use of biomass (wood, grasses and other plant products used for fuel), and passed an amendment in the Senate to help communities establish biomass heating cooperatives to expand the market for sustainable biomass heating. He is a strong advocate for sustainable energy tax incentives like the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit which help reduce the cost of wind and solar projects, and makes geothermal heating and cooling more affordable for consumers.
Green Jobs and the Stimulus
Sen. Sanders' legislative accomplishments include working with then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to write the Green Jobs Act (Title X of P.L. 110-140), which created a green jobs workforce training program, and working with Sen. Robert Menendez to write the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (Section 541 of P.L. 110-140), a program to help states and local governments fund energy efficiency and sustainable energy initiatives. Both the Green Jobs Act and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program were funded through the 2009 economic recovery package. Vermont and its cities and towns and counties received about $16.5 million to help retrofit homes and buildings to save energy. In addition, the stimulus funded a $69 million investment in a smart grid in Vermont, to help consumers reduce energy use and to help Vermont better integrate intermittent renewable energy sources like solar onto the grid.
A Vermont National Lab Partnership
Sen. Sanders is working to help Vermont become a model for the nation in moving to energy efficiency and sustainable energy. To further Vermont's efforts in energy efficiency and sustainable energy, Sen. Sanders has worked with Sandia National Laboratory to create a Vermont/Sandia partnership that has already received $4 million in funding from the Department of Energy. This unique collaboration between a national energy lab and Vermont's state government, clean tech businesses and academic institutions is working to develop smart grid technologies, cyber-security and solar energy.
Clean Air and Higher Fuel Economy Standards
As an advocate for protecting the environment, Sen. Sanders has fought against efforts in Congress to limit or overturn key provisions of the Clean Air Act. Sanders held a hearing in the Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee to examine how the Clean Air Act actually helps create jobs as we invest in modernizing and cleaning up our power plants and in the auto industry as we develop more energy-efficient technologies so our cars and trucks meet higher fuel economy standards. Sen. Sanders has supported President Obama's efforts to move our cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, an effort that will cut reliance on foreign oil while saving consumers money at the gas pump.
Sen. Sanders is one of the most vocal critics of continuing government subsidies and special tax breaks for the nuclear industry, and has called for an end to the Price-Anderson government liability insurance for nuclear reactors. Following the disaster in Fukushima, Sen. Sanders pressed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to swiftly adopt safety reforms recommended by a special task force of senior NRC staff.
The Military and Sustainable Energy
Sen. Sanders believes the military can play a key role in helping our nation transform our energy system to cleaner energy alternatives. Working with the Vermont National Guard, Sen. Sanders helped fund a 1.45 megawatt solar energy project at the Vermont Air National Guard base, the second largest solar installation in the state. This project is meeting 40 percent of the Guard's electricity needs while saving an estimated $250,000 a year in energy costs. In addition, the senator chaired a Green Jobs and New Economy Subcommittee hearing to examine how the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force are investing in advanced bio-fuels to reduce dependence on oil, and how solar and other sustainable technologies are helping reduce the risk of harm to our troops by reducing the amount of fuel that needs to be hauled through dangerous territory.