Keynote Address - National Association of Environmental Law Societies
March 22, 2008
|To listen to a podcast of the speech click here.|
SENATOR BERNIE SANDERS
VEMONT LAW SCHOOL KEYNOTE ADDRESS
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL LAW SOCIETIES
Good afternoon. It is great that Vermont Law School is hosting the National Association of Environmental Law Societies conference. I hope that all those of you who are from out of state are enjoying your visit to Vermont and I hope you will back in the future.
The title of this conference, "Picking Up the Pieces: Reclaiming Global Environmental Leadership," reflects the very sad - but absolutely correct - situation we find ourselves in these days. The United States used to be widely seen as leading the world on environmental issues, and by extension, public health protection. Like our standing in so many other areas - foreign policy, healthcare and education to name a few - the world no longer looks to us for leadership. There are a number of reasons for this but quite frankly I believe that the major reason is that we currently have a president who will probably go down in history as the worst environmental president the country has ever seen. In fact, we have a president who has stood in the way of global action on the most important environmental issue humankind has been faced: global warming.
My remarks today are going to revolve around a "bad news/good news" theme. The bad news is that it is clear to most people that, in terms of global warming, our country and planet face enormous challenges. The good news is that on the other had I believe that we now have the knowledge and technology to address those problems, reverse global warming and, in the process, strengthen and stabilize our economy over the long term.
The bad news, as you all know, is that America is perilously addicted to fossil fuels. We consume nearly one-quarter of the world's energy, including 25 percent of the world's oil, even though we have less than 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. We get over 50 percent of our electricity from coal, a fuel source that puts people at risk both during its production - in coal mines and in mountain communities - and during its actual use. In fact, roughly 40 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted by our country come from our power plants and the vast, vast majority of this is from our coal plants. This addiction we have to fossil fuels, which by their very nature are limited in supply, leaves our economy, our jobs, our environment, and our public health at significant risk. These days, we are seeing these risks firsthand, with our economy in trouble because oil is now over $100 a barrel, people facing uncertainty in their employment opportunities, seniors go cold because they can't afford to heat their homes, global warming staring us down all across the globe, and pollution-related health threats such as childhood asthma exist at rates that are shameful. Further, our foreign policy, whether it's the disastrous war in Iraq or propping up undemocratic governments in the Middle East, are impacted by our dependence on oil.
Our goal must be nothing less than transforming our energy system by breaking our dependence on fossil fuels and moving this country, and the world, to a new energy future based on energy efficiency and carbon-free, renewable, and sustainable sources of energy.
The good news is that there is no doubt that if we have the political will and if we are smart about how we do it, we can reverse global warming at the same time as we strengthen our economy, create millions of good paying jobs, protect our environment for future generations, and reduce the threats to public health that environmental degradation causes. With existing knowledge and technology, we know how to address the challenge. What is even more exciting is that clean, sustainable energy technologies such as wind and solar create more jobs per unit of energy generated than traditional energy sources, so while there will undoubtedly be some rough times and economic dislocation during the transition, at the end of the day I believe we will come out ahead economically.
Some other good news is that history reminds us that when this country puts its mind to something, we can achieve it. We can do it. In 1941, President Roosevelt began the process of rearming America to defeat Nazism and Japanese Imperialism. Within a few short years, tanks, planes and guns were rolling off assembly lines at such a scale that our military had the resources to overwhelm our enemies. In 1961, President Kennedy called upon our nation to undertake the seemingly impossible mission of sending a man to the moon. NASA was greatly expanded, the best scientists and engineers were assembled, billions were appropriated and, in 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. Now, as a result of global warming, the challenge we face is no less daunting and no less consequential. The difference is that today we are not just fighting to win a war or enhance American prestige. We are attempting to make sure that this planet which we call Earth will be able to support and nurture human, animal and plant life for future generations. This is our challenge and our responsibility. And, as we have done in the past, there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that with strong political leadership, with the kind of focus we are capable of, we can do it.
If someone tells you that transforming our energy system will be expensive, please remind them that today we are spending $12 billion a month on the war in Iraq - a war which will eventually cost us well over one trillion dollars. Please remind them that, in addition to Iraq, we are spending $515 billion on defense spending and that we are also providing hundreds of billions a year in tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, trust me in telling you that if we can get our national priorities right, we can adequately fund the transformation of our energy system.
In order to understand what the global warming crisis is all about, let's take a look at what we know about the problem. The International Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, released reports last year which represent a conservative assessment of what we know. Why do I say it is conservative? Because the science behind the IPCC work doesn't include some of the more recent science, science which has suggested that the situation is much more dire than we previously thought.
I suspect that most of you all are aware of the IPCC's work, but let's review quickly. The committee is made up of more than 2,500 scientific expert reviewers, some 800 contributing authors, and in excess of 450 lead authors, representing 130 countries. This isn't just a small group of left-leaning scientists from a few countries conspiring to lead us all off a ledge. Collectively, this group, the entire team, was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with Vice President Gore, last December 10.
Here are some examples of what the U.N. committee found:
- "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal."
- With 90 percent certainty, most of the warming in the past 50 years is due to human activity.
- Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been in over the last 650,000 years.
- Eleven of the 12 years between 1995-2006 rank among the 12 warmest years since we have been keeping records, meaning since 1850.
- Without a major change, by 2100, temperatures will likely increase between 3 and 7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.8º - 4.0º C).
- With 90 percent certainty, scientists expect that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent and, the higher temperatures get, the worse the effects of global warming become.
But, what does unchecked global warming actually mean for ordinary people - for you, me, my children, my grandchildren, and others? It means that public health, the health of millions of people across the globe, will be at risk from extreme weather events, malnutrition, and the spread of disease. It means that the supply of fresh water, a basic human necessity, for over one-sixth of the world's population will be reduced over the coming century. It means that ecosystems, those systems that, on top of their intrinsic value provide us with services that we fail to value, such as being the provider of many of our medicines, will face changes that could turn them upside down, such as 20 to 30 percent of the species on the planet facing extinction. It means that crop productivity will change and while it may increase in some areas temporarily, we expect decreases globally, with increased temperatures, droughts, and floods becoming more common. In fact, it means that by the 2080s, many millions more people will be experiencing flooding each year due to sea level rise, with the world's poorest communities especially vulnerable, especially those living in coastal areas.
Let's delve a bit deeper into what these changes might look like in different regions of the world. In North America, reduced snowpack in the western United States will cause increased flooding and
a decrease in fresh water supplies, especially in the summer months. In fact, we are already seeing these changes, as only 27 glaciers remain in Glacier National Park - less than one-fifth of the approximately 150 glaciers that existed within the park's current boundaries in 1850. Additionally, here at home, forests will suffer from pests, disease, and fire. Heat waves will become more frequent, causing adverse health impacts, especially for the elderly. In Africa, by 2020, fresh water resources for between 75 and 250 million people will be stressed. In Asia, fresh water availability will decrease, potentially adversely affecting more than a billion people by the 2050s. In Latin America, by mid-century, tropical forests will be replaced by savanna, causing a significant loss of biodiversity and water availability. Finally, in the polar regions the loss of ice from glaciers and ice sheets and changes in snow conditions will negatively affect wildlife and Arctic communities. From this, sea level could rise up to 23 feet with the complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which would take many centuries, but would ultimately occur due to manmade emissions.
Now, from my perspective, one of the most important things that the U.N. committee told us was that the problem of global warming requires us to change our behaviors to stem the worst long-term effects. Unfortunately, adaptation alone will not be enough to address the impacts of global warming. I emphasize this point because there are some who would say; "Not a problem - we will simply just adapt to any changes that might occur if global warming is real." Well, those people are just dead wrong: we cannot simply adapt our way out of this. We must fundamentally change the way we do business.
Further, and importantly, if we don't there will not only be an environmental price to pay, but there will be a financial price to pay. In fact, the Stern Report, written by a former chief economist of the World Bank and issued in October 2006, suggests that bold action to combat the threat of global warming will save industrial nations money and that inaction could cost between 5 to 20 percent of global gross domestic product. Speaking to the issue in no uncertain terms, the report states, "If no action is taken we will be faced with the kind of downturn that has not been seen since the great depression and the two world wars."
Before I move away from what we know about global warming, let me revisit what I said about the U.N. committee being conservative. We should also be clear that what the science has been telling us has, based on recent work, underestimated the rapidity of changes associated with global warming. To be blunt: the problem is even worse than many have previously suggested. While there are numerous examples, let me just cite one: Earlier this week we learned that the amount of long-lasting sea ice in the Arctic declined sharply last year - the steepest yearly decline on record. While experts attribute the change to wind patterns and a rise in ocean temperatures, guess what? Climate experts believe that both of these phenomena - the wind patterns and the increase in ocean temperature - are a function of global warming.
So, we have some of the most knowledgeable scientists from all over the world telling us that the crisis of global warming is real, that humans have caused it, and that we must act aggressively to address it. That's enough to spur action, right? Sadly, no.
Let's spend a minute taking a look at the politics of global warming.
Until November of 2006, when Democrats became the majority in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, there really wasn't any serious attention to global warming. In fact, my colleague Sen. Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma who was the Chairman of the Environment Committee for many years, believes that global warming was "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." His words as stated on the floor of the U.S. Senate. As you might expect from someone with this view, Congress did not do very much to address the crisis of global warming.
Once the Democrats took over, the tone changed markedly. Instead of Senator Inhofe chairing the Environmental Committee, that gavel fell to Senator Barbara Boxer, a strong supporter of the environment. Under her leadership, we have made very significant progress in studying global warming and moving forward with serious legislation. .
In the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi set up a special Committee which was tasked with raising awareness on global warming. Under Representative Ed Markey's leadership, this Committee has been helping to educate members of the House as well as the American public about what exactly is at stake with our future when it comes to changing our energy habits and addressing global warming.
But, we still find ourselves faced with the challenge of having a president who, to say the least, disregards the importance of protecting the environment and public health. This administration has, for all intents and purposes, taken the word "environment'' out of the title of the Environmental Protection Agency and renamed it the Polluters Protection Agency. I will not now go into all of the horrendous decisions made by Bush's EPA over the years, but you can find some of them on our Website.
I will say, however, that last year, in 2007, the Supreme Court, a very conservative court, in one of many rebukes of administration environmental and public health policy by the judicial branch of government, invalidated the Bush position on regulating global warming pollutants by saying that the EPA does in fact currently have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles as "air pollutants" under the Clean Air Act, one of our most fundamental environmental laws. Then, in late 2007, in an unprecedented move, the Bush EPA denied California's request for a waiver under the Clean Air Act. The law, in my view, could not be clearer. Under the Clean Air Act, California is given the explicit right to petition the EPA to implement tougher air pollution standards. Once California's waiver is granted, other states, like Vermont, can then implement the California standards. The State of California waited for an answer on its waiver request for two years. Then, in a political stunt, the EPA administrator called a phone press conference with reporters to announce EPA's decision to deny the waiver. No decision document to back up the denial, just a press release and a letter to the governor of California - all of which is unprecedented.
Needless to say, all of this is extremely disconcerting. But here's the other side of that story. While the administration protects polluters and largely ignores global warming, the American people, at the grass-roots level, are moving forward rapidly to demand changes in public policy. And, on global warming, the importance of this pressure cannot be overstated. People all over the country are coming forward to have their voices heard on this topic. In 2007, right here in Vermont, students at Middlebury College worked with noted author Bill McKibben, to start the Step It Up movement. And then, on April 14, 2007, during the Step It Up National Day of Climate Action, communities came together in more than 1,400 locations in all 50 states to tell Congress to cut carbon 80 percent by 2050. I participated in multiple events around the state of Vermont. Following on the success earlier in the year, Step It Up 2 occurred on November 3, 2007. More than 80 national elected officials participated in this event.
I am here to say that the grassroots push is making a difference.
In Congress, we have started to make progress. Let me talk about what we did last year.
In December 2007, an energy bill that was written with conservation and global warming in mind became law. Did the bill go as far as I would like? No. Was it a step forward? Absolutely. Let me highlight some of the successes as well as some of the programs I worked on.
Fuel economy standards, known as CAFE standards, short for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, had remained stagnant for years despite the fact that increased fuel economy can help save consumers money and reduce global warming pollution. Last year, the energy bill turned around 30 years of inaction by mandating an average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 for light trucks and cars. While I supported an amendment to change it to 40 miles per gallon over the same timeframe, I believe that the enacted standard is a strong step in the right direction. In 2020 alone, the new standard is expected to prevent the same amount of pollution as would come from the operation of 28 million cars.
Additionally, the energy bill includes important provisions to increase the efficiency of our light bulbs and federal buildings. Our light bulbs will become 30 percent more efficient, and by 2020, subsequent standards could lead to a doubling of this amount! Shortly after the first standards go into effect, consumers will save an estimated $6 billion per year and the equivalent of pollution from 24 new coal-fired power plants will be avoided. The energy bill also positions the federal government to lead the way with "green building" techniques, which helps to lower the costs of these technologies and to save the taxpayers' money from reduced energy bills. More specifically, by 2015, the bill requires a 30 percent reduction in energy consumption in federal buildings.
I was successful in incorporating a number of provisions into the energy bill.
Supporting Cities, Towns, Counties, And States: The final energy bill included a new and exciting national program that I worked to create with Senator Menendez from New Jersey. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program is modeled after the highly successful Community Development Block Grants, this new program is intended to support on-the-ground efforts by cities, towns, and states as they tackle our serious energy challenges. The program provides federal recognition of grassroots efforts and supports their pursuit of solutions that reduce fossil fuel emissions, reduce total energy use, and improve energy efficiency. I truly believe that there is infinite potential in the new program and hope that Vermont towns step forward, once funding is available.
Tapping into the Talent of our Colleges and Universities: There is no question that our colleges and universities are helping to combat the crisis of global warming as well as devise solutions to this international emergency. That is why I made it a priority during last year's energy bill to create a grant program to support the on-the-ground work taking place on college campuses all across the country. This program supports institutions of higher education, school districts, local governments, and municipal utilities in their efforts to help meet our energy challenges. It does this through four distinct grant programs. Taken together, the projects funded through the grants must develop renewable energy facilities, improve energy efficiency of buildings, or promote innovative energy sustainability projects. One of the most exciting parts of this program is that institutions of higher education must involve their students and local communities in their efforts.
Green Job Training: Good Paying Jobs And A Cleaner Environment: Last year, it was brought to my attention that one of the biggest hurdles to increasing the weatherization of our homes and buildings was a simple lack of a trained workforce. I was appalled, and crafted a legislative program to address the problem. Today, I am happy to report that something that started with a meeting with Vermont constituents has turned into a new national pilot program that will not only help put people to work, but will do so in jobs that help to respond to global warming. The Green Jobs program, which I worked on with Senator Clinton and Representatives Solis and Tierney, will help to train Americans in jobs related to energy efficiency and renewable energy. You may not believe this, as it is pretty appalling, but according to the federal government's own National Renewable Energy Lab, the lack of a trained workforce is the single largest non-technical barrier to moving forward with greater energy efficiency and renewable energy in the country. The "Green Jobs" training program we passed will get us started down a path to put people to work transforming our energy economy.
I also worked to make sure that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of biofuels are taken into account. Partnering with the chairman of the energy committee, I pushed to make sure that biofuels that are used to meet the new federal standard must have lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions that are 20 percent less than conventional fuels. While I know that there is concern about biofuels, not all biofuels are created equal. I do not believe that we should be supporting the destruction of tropical forests, and in the process the extinction of species, to produce biofuels. I do, however, believe that there are great minds thinking about biofuels here in Vermont and they are talking about locally and sustainably-produced biofuels.
I also pushed for a requirement for new or substantially-renovated federal buildings to get 30 percent of their hot water from solar water heaters. Solar water heaters make sense: they start saving money right away and they also help reduce global warming emissions and other pollutants emitted by traditional means (electricity and natural gas) of making hot water. By having the federal government be a large purchaser, I believe that we will be able to bring the cost down, thereby allowing average Americans to be able to afford these units.
Even though we accomplished a lot in last year's energy bill, there are many other energy policies that we must tackle in this year. I am committed to working with my colleagues to pass a national standard to require electricity from renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar. Why is this important? Well, a requirement that no less than 15 percent - and more preferably 20 percent - of the nation's electricity come from renewable sources is a way to put people to work in good paying jobs. For example, if 20 percent of the country's electricity came from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal by 2020 (this requirement is included in the global warming legislation I have sponsored), roughly 185,000 new jobs would be created, according to an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists. At the same time, we would increase the income of farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners by over $25 billion, save consumers over $10 billion in electricity and natural gas bills, and reduce the global warming pollution equivalent to taking over 36 million cars off the road. This is a win-win solution if I have ever heard of one! Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass such a 20 percent requirement as part of its energy bill; the House, however, was successful in including a 15 percent requirement. Sadly, the final version of the energy bill did not include any requirement. I am also committed to pushing for passage of a package of energy tax credits aimed at residential and commercial -level efforts on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Many of us tried to get such a package included in last year's energy bill, but we failed during three different votes to muster the 60 votes needed to win passage of the provision.
So, Congress is now paying more attention to smart energy policies. We are also, of course, working on landmark global warming legislation.
The first bill I introduced as a U.S. Senator was S. 309, the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. This was legislation that Sen. Jeffords, whose seat I currently hold, originally introduced in the summer of 2006. The bill, which currently has the support of 20 Senators including both Democratic candidates for president, tackles global warming based on the science from 2006. To be more specific, the bill is based on the desire to limit the global increase in temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. To meet this goal, science tells us we must stabilize global CO2 concentrations at no higher a level than 450 parts per million (ppm), and some are now suggesting that the appropriate level might actually be more like 350-400 ppm. The 450 ppm level only provides us, the scientists say, with a 50-50 chance of keeping the worst from happening. These odds are not great. It is a gamble. If we were cautious, conservative, about these things, we would err on the side of safety and keep the pollution down lower than this level in order to protect the one and only world that we have. The bill doesn't include every detail about a cap and trade program, but puts forth a menu of ways we could get serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, including instituting the California vehicle emissions standards nationally, requiring that 20 percent of the nation's electricity come from renewables by 2020, and saying that utilities must ratchet up their commitment to residential energy efficiency. The bill I introduced helped to get my colleagues to focus on the overall need to reduce emissions based on the science - and not the politics. That bill, unfortunately, is too radical for a majority of my colleagues. Right now, a more conservative piece of legislation, the so-called Lieberman-Warner bill - S. 2191- is the legislation that is in play.
Without going into every page of the 200-plus page bill, let me give you the overview of this legislation, which does get into the details of a cap and trade system. The bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 66 percent by 2050, as compared to 1990, by covering roughly 85 percent of all current U.S. emissions - notably the emissions from the electric power, transportation, natural gas, and manufacturing sectors that represent the largest greenhouse gas emitting culprits in the U.S. The EPA has suggested if the 66 percent reduction from 1990 levels was to be achieved, that, assuming conservative actions by other countries, global concentrations of greenhouse gas emissions would remain below 500 parts per million. This level is higher than the 450 parts per million that my bill is geared toward.
In my opinion, the main strength of the legislation is that it has bipartisan support. I will quickly note, that much of the Republican support for the bill comes from Senators who are up for reelection this fall, so go figure. The other strength, as I see it, has to do with making sure that renewable energy is explicitly a part of the energy mix promoted through the bill. Originally, the legislation provided no direct support for renewable energy, like wind, solar, and geothermal. You will be pleased to hear that I was able to change the bill so that 25 percent of auction proceeds from the selling of pollution allowances will go to fund renewable energy projects and programs, a level on par with the amount directed to advanced coal and carbon sequestration programs.
The bill does have weaknesses.
The reduction targets aren't high enough. I feel strongly that we must be guided by the science and that no less than the 80 percent reductions from 1990 levels are where we must end up. On top of this, the bill doesn't have an automatic mechanism that would trigger tightening of the emissions caps should ongoing science inform us that such tightening would help our changes of staving off the worst effects of global warming. Because half of the carbon dioxide the world emits will stay in the atmosphere for 100 years and some for 1000 years, any delay in meeting this peak goal will require even steeper and deeper cuts in subsequent years. It will make our job harder. Starting right away with a serious effort will give us more breathing room. But compromising away from the beginning is not what is going to get the job done.
Additionally, instead of auctioning the right to pollute, the bill provides, for free, pollution allowances to many industries, at the outset of the program, however by 2030, no allowances would be given away to polluters for free. Unfortunately, some analyses have suggested that over the life of the bill, polluters would be given up to $1 trillion in giveaways.
While I successfully got renewables explicitly included in the legislation, I still don't necessarily believe that it goes far enough. The American people are looking for leadership to truly transform our energy economy and putting billions of dollars into so-called 'clean coal' isn't the best choice.
Additionally, the bill would also allow the use of offsets - meaning that a power plant could decide to pay someone to plant a tree instead of actually changing their habits. While offsets may ease in the transition to a new energy economy, who is going to make sure that the offsets are legitimate, meaning, for example, that they are real, verifiable, and in addition to actions that would have been taken anyway? Offsets will slow the transition to a cleaner energy mix. With so many unanswered questions surrounding them, I have serious concerns.
Finally, I am not convinced that the bill does enough to ease the transition for low and middle-income Americans who truly want to be a part of the solution but can't be asked to choose between feeding their families and paying the electricity bills.
I voted against the bill when it was in front of the subcommittee but because I wanted to help move the bill forward in the process and because I was successful in including funding for renewables, I supported the bill moving out of the full committee.
As I mentioned, the Lieberman-Warner bill is the bill getting attention right now, in fact, it may be taken to the Senate floor later this year. If it does move to the floor, I plan on playing an important role in arguing that it must be strengthened.
While the federal government has been slow to act on global warming, our cities and states have really stepped up and done some very exciting things. In fact, we are seeing tremendous action at the state and local level - both on implementing broad goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as implementing concrete actions on renewables and energy efficiency to actually get the reductions in emissions.
More than 700 mayors have signed onto the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which means that they will strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol target, a 7 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012, in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns.
And 25 states have committed to mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. These states represent, in total, 41 percent of all U.S. emissions. On top of this, another seven states are considering mandatory caps and if they move forward, nearly 50 percent of all US emissions would be under a mandatory system. While the reduction targets in these states may vary, for example, Maryland is currently debating a bill to reduce emissions 90 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, there is clear movement forward.
Let's consider the concrete actions that cities and states are taking to achieve these emissions reductions.
In 2005, the Mayor of Chicago, Mayor Daley, announced an aggressive environmental agenda to move the city forward on a variety of fronts. Among other initiatives, he committed Chicago to building all of its new buildings at a minimum LEED, short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a standard that ranks buildings on energy and environmental 'smarts', Silver level with a target of Gold. The city is also working to retrofit its older buildings to make them more efficient and in 2005, Chicago completed energy efficiency retrofits at all City libraries. In 2006, the goal was to complete lighting retrofits at all 105 of its fire stations to save roughly $250,000 in annual electricity costs, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 3,515 tons. In 2005, Chicago purchased solar panels for hot-water heating capable of generating a total of 1.27 megawatts, the equivalent of heating 17 Olympic-sized swimming pools
Mayor Nickels of Seattle, the person who initiated the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, is also setting an example. He committed the City to investing $1.5 million to increase transit service and doubling the existing 25 miles of marked and striped bicycle lanes. Additionally, the Seattle Police Department began transitioning all of its non-pursuit vehicles to efficient gas-electric hybrids in 2007.
Let's also look at what the Mayor of Des Moines, Mayor Cownie, has been up to: The City has introduced hybrid and alternative-fuel vehicles in the city fleet. The Police Department uses hybrids for neighborhood patrols and in the detective bureau. The City is building a major trail system, with over 300 miles of recreational trails to connect Des Moines with Central Iowa. They are also adding more bike lanes to make it easier for people to ride bikes and walk rather than drive. They have replaced incandescent traffic signals with more energy-efficient light emitting diodes. This single action is saving the City $120,000 in energy costs
In addition to our cities, states are moving forward. In fact, 27 states have requirements that a certain percentage of their electricity must come from renewables. Energy efficiency programs are also a focal point, along with tax structures that benefit renewables and energy efficiency. For example, Oregon and South Dakota recently became the latest states to institute smarter tax policy. Oregon is seeking to draw manufacturers of renewable energy equipment to the state, while South Dakota is providing tax incentives for wind energy facilities.
But, let me take a minute to look at the California because it might be the best example of what can be accomplished when a state embraces aggressive policies for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Despite strong economic growth, per capita energy consumption as remained at the same level for the last 20 years due to bold energy efficiency programs. California has also enacted a requirement that aims to provide 20percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010. The majority of this generation will come from geothermal and wind energy, but solar energy is having the largest percentage increase right now.
California was an early pioneer in the wind energy industry and led the country in installed wind capacity through 2006. Right now the state gets 2percent of its electricity from wind and it stands to nearly double this capacity in the next few years.
California also has geothermal resources that provide a small, 6percent to be exact, but important, percentage of their electricity.
In terms of solar, the California Solar Initiative aims to install three gigawatts of new solar energy by 2017. Although commonly referred to as the "million solar roofs" initiative, the plan calls for a mix of residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar systems. The California Solar Initiative is managing a New Homes Solar Partnership that mandates energy efficient residential construction practices as a first step. The second step is to make new homes "solar ready" by installing the framing and wiring for photovoltaic panels as the home is initially constructed. California started providing rebates of $2.50 per watt to get homeowners and businesses to begin investing in PV. That funding pays for about one-third of the cost of a residential system that would provide up to one-half of a home's electric demand. California is now phasing out rebates in favor of performance-based incentives that pay based on the actual power delivered. Since this option pays a monthly rebate based on the electricity provided to the grid, this option encourages PV owners to follow good design practices when the system is installed and conduct maintenance that optimizes system performance over time
California is also moving forward with utility-scale solar. One of the country's largest utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric, PG&E, is working with Solel Solar Systems to build and operate a 553 megawatt concentrated solar plant in the Mojave Desert. This facility is expected to be on line by 2012 and will provide electricity for 400,000 homes. The plant will provide electricity for the next 20 years at a rate of approximately 12 cents / kilowatt-hour, roughly the same rate Vermont citizens are paying for electric power right now. PG&E is not limiting its investments to one form of utility-scale solar, though. A new variation of utility-scale solar is Concentrating Photovoltaics, which uses mirrored surfaces to capture more light and increase the output of photovoltaics. PG&E has announced plans to purchase all the power from a facility in Fresno County that will begin operation in the spring of 2009.
In addition to our cities and states, other countries are taking the challenge much more seriously than we are. The Europeans are already taking huge steps to help with this problem. Let's look at Germany as an example.
Germany is a notable success story in the field of renewable energy. It aims to generate 12.5percent of its energy from renewables by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020. By 2050 the country will be powered 50 percent by renewables. Germany is the world leader in wind energy, with 8 percent of its electricity coming from wind. Despite having marginal solar resources compared to most parts of the U.S., it has used public policies, most notably a feed-in-tariff, to create the largest PV market in the world. For example, the German feed-in-tariff requires local utilities to buy all the PV power at electric rates that generate a reasonable profit for the owner of the system. Germany had a very small base of photovoltaics in 2000. By the end of 2007, Germany had more than 430,000 PV systems installed and was getting 3percent of their electricity from solar. While creating this renewable energy success story, Germany added 400,000 new jobs to support the thriving PV industry.
I could talk about what some other countries are doing, but since we are in Vermont, let's take a look at what is going on here. The state has been very aggressive with regard to energy efficiency and the results are very promising. Efficiency Vermont was the first state utility in the nation created specifically to target energy efficiency improvements. Since its inception in 2000, Efficiency Vermont has had a number of accomplishments:
- The state is using 5.3 percent less energy than it would have without the programs completed by Efficiency Vermont.
- On a per capita basis, Vermont invests more than any other state on energy efficiency, close to $45 per person.
- Vermont has the highest percentage of purchasers buying ENERGY STAR refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers in the nation.
- An economic analysis shows an overall benefit to cost ratio of 2.44. In other words, for every dollar invested, a savings of $2.44 is expected over the life of the installation. Weatherization programs in homes typically provide energy savings of at least 25percent.
- The efforts of Efficiency Vermont have contributed to negative load growth in the state. Statewide electrical energy needs were reduced by 1percent in 2006.
Additionally, my home city of Burlington, Vermont, despite strong economic growth, consumes no more electricity today than it did 16 years ago because a successful effort to make to make our homes, offices, schools more energy efficient. One of the areas where we have been particularly successful in Vermont is with energy efficient lighting. After getting compact fluorescent light bulbs in 80 percent of Vermont households by the end of this year, Efficiency Vermont will move to light emitting diodes - LEDs.
That's efficiency. What about renewables? Vermont gets 43 percent of its energy from renewable sources, with 28 percent coming from hydropower in Quebec, 8 percent from in-state hydro, and 7 percent from biomass, wind, and solar PV. While this may seem like a lot, we haven't yet even come close to our potential. We are lucky to have the largest wood-fired power plant in the country, the McNeil power plant. This power plant is an example of using a renewable resource that is local to meet a communities energy needs. What is the state doing to provide financial support for renewables? In 2005, Vermont created a special fund to support the growth of renewables. The Clean Energy Development Fund gets somewhere between $4-7 million per year, with most of the 2008 funding allocated to grant and loan programs which support Vermont businesses that are developing green technologies. This year, the fund will be providing $750,000 for residential scale solar PV, solar hot water, and wind turbines. And, let me tell you, that is a drop in the bucket, we must put much more money aside to promote the use of these renewable technologies because right now, Vermont has only about 75 small wind turbines, 250 PV systems, and 500 solar hot water systems.
One of the most exciting programs in the state is the fuels for schools program, which has allowed more than 30 elementary, middle, and high schools in Vermont to convert from fuel oil heating to wood chips. Wood chips are a renewable bio-mass resource that are cheaper and have less global warming potential than fossil fuels. Vermont schools used more than 18,000 tons of wood chips during the 2006-2007 heating season, displacing a million gallons of fuel oil and 11,000 tons of carbon dioxide. After the conversion to wood, a typical school saved 50 percent of its heating costs. In all, the program saved $1.5 million for all schools during the 2006-2007 heating season. This is a great example of how renewables are a win-win situation: we reduce our environmental footprint and we save money at the same time.
But, there is definitely significant room for improvement in Vermont with renewables. The demand for residential-scale renewable energy exceeds the funding available, so the state program for small-scale renewables is chronically over-subscribed and customers are turned away. It has been suggested that twice as much money, something around $1.5 million, is needed on an annual basis. Wind maps indicate that Vermont has wind resources consistent with utility-scale production, particularly along ridge lines in the Green Mountains. But, like many places across the country, wind developments have faced local opposition.
So, in talking about how different places are moving forward, whether it is a small city in Iowa, the State of California, or Germany, there is a real desire for change and we are seeing results. We must push the federal government to get more involved because right now we are not doing nearly enough.
I have great confidence for the future that if we summon up the political will, we can transform our energy system to one that is better for each and every one of us and the planet as well. In the process of transforming our energy systems, we will become more energy independent and we will cut our greenhouse gas emissions. This, in turn, will strengthen our economy, put people to work, protect the environment, and provide for better health for our citizens.
We must pursue massive efforts on energy efficiency in every aspect of our lives. Government must work together with the private sector to quickly and boldly deploy renewable, sustainable energy in every state and community across the country.
We can do it. We can turn our factories, especially our shuttered factories, into manufacturers of "green" technologies. They will be mighty engines of production of green jobs. In World War II, we turned our auto plants into factories making tanks and military trucks and fighter planes in just a few months. We need to do the same now as we wage war on global warming. We can convert our economy again, cranking out more efficient appliances and plug-in hybrid electric cars that use electricity, electricity we want to get from renewables, more efficiently and move away from oil. These measures will address the two largest sources of CO2 in our country, vehicles and coal-fired power plants. At the same time, this strategy will spur markets, export markets, for our innovative energy efficient technologies, some that we will perfect and others that I can't even imagine what they will be. Saving energy will save us money, on our utility bills and at the pump, just the opposite of those who predict pain and suffering if we do anything to stop global warming.
U.S. Steel's former Fairless Hills industrial site in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, has been made into a manufacturing site for wind turbines, creating 300 new jobs, investing tens of millions of dollars. This investment comes from Gamesa, a Spanish company. We should be taking the lead in investing in America's old abandoned steel mills and other industrial facilities and make them bloom with new investment and new jobs.
What if we committed to building every new building with the highest level of energy and environmental smarts - "green building" techniques. What I mean by this is being smarter about the design, construction, siting, material selection, energy use, lighting, indoor air, and certain other principles that make buildings friendlier to the environment, better for the health of the occupants of the buildings, and better for the long term bottom line, for example, saving roughly 30 percent or more on energy utility bills. If we got serious about this, we would reduce energy, water, and material use; reduce the generation of waste; improve indoor air quality; reduce the impacts of the building on human health and the environment; and increase the use of environmentally sustainable products. Why would getting 'green building' make a difference? Well, in the United States, buildings are responsible for about 30 percent of energy use; 38 percent of carbon dioxide emissions (thus a major factor in global warming pollution); 12 percent of our water use; 65 percent of waste output; and 70 percent of electricity consumption. According to the U.S. Green Building Council, green buildings they have certified under their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, program, have the following benefits compared to average buildings:
- They use an average of 30 percent less energy (and in some cases up to 70 percent less);
- They reduce carbon emissions by an average of 35 percent.
- They use 30 to 50 percent less water. And,
- They reduce waste costs by 50 to 90 percent.
What if we got serious about transportation? In terms of saving energy in transportation it is nothing less than insane that we are driving cars today which get the same 25 miles per gallon as cares in this country got 20 years ago. If Europe and Japan can have cars that average over 44 miles per gallon, we can do at least as well. Simply raising fuel efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon will save more oil than we import from Saudi Arabia. We should also be rebuilding and expanding our decaying rail and subway systems and make sure that energy efficient buses are available in rural America so that travelers have an alternative to the automobile.
What about wind power? Wind power is the fastest growing source of new energy in the world and in the United States - but we have barely begun to tap its potential. We currently get 8 percent of our electricity from wind but it is projected that wind could supply 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030. We should be supporting wind energy not only through the creation of large wind farms in the appropriate areas, but through the production of small, inexpensive wind turbines which can be used in homes and farms throughout rural America. In fact, residential-scale wind turbines, with a capacity of around 2 kilowatts, could easily supply ½ of a home's electricity and have become cost effective for homeowners. And, what gets me pretty interested is that Vermont has the potential for leadership in this area. Earth Turbines is a startup company, located in Hinesburg, VT, that is developing a residential wind turbine.
The possibilities for solar energy are virtually unlimited - both at the utility scale and the residential scale. Concentrating solar power plants produce utility-scale electricity using mirrors or lenses to efficiently concentrate the sun's energy. The energy is focused on a pipe or heat collection element, where it is transferred to a fluid. This thermal energy is used to make steam, which drives a conventional power cycle to generate electricity. Concentrating solar power has several advantages for utilities: it is a free and reliable energy source with minimal contributions to global warming, it provides peak power output during periods of peak demand, it is a proven technology that can be rapidly deployed and unlike nuclear power, concentrating solar is not an attractive target for terrorism. Today, this technology is about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, and with improvements in manufacturing combined with the impact of increasing plant size and technology advances, we expect that costs will dip below 10 cents per kilowatt-hour within the next 5 years. And, the Western Governor's association tells us that the western U.S. could provide 17percent of the nation's electricity through solar thermal. We are seeing some major investments in solar thermal today. For example, the Nevada Solar One plant, a 64 megawatt plant, came on-line in 2007 and will serve 14,000 homes. As I already mentioned when I talked about California, a 553 megawatt concentrating solar plant is being developed in California's Mojave Desert and will serve 400,000 homes. And, other similar plants are being planned in Arizona and New Mexico. But, as you might have expected, solar thermal in Vermont isn't really an option.
Distributed solar - solar on the roof of your house or on the roof of a large commercial building - is also promising. Photovoltaics convert sunlight directly into electricity and PV systems are feasible in all 50 states. Installations in the U.S. have been growing at a rate of 25percent per year. Present estimates for the cost of PV on the roofs of homes or commercial/industrial facilities are in the range of 25- to 30-cents per kilowatt hours, which makes this prohibitive for many. But, the technology is advancing quickly. Department of Energy experts believe that PV will be below 10 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2015.
What about geothermal energy is the heat from deep inside the earth. It is free, renewable, and can be used for utility-scale electricity generation. While geothermal is available at some depth everywhere, it is most accessible in western states where hydrothermal resources are at shallow depths. Currently the U.S. has approximately 2,900 Megawatts of installed capacity, which is just 5percent of the renewable electricity generation in the U.S. Growth in geothermal has been stagnant for much of the last decade, but recent federal incentives have stimulated new investments in this renewable resource and we expect geothermal capacity to double in the near term with projects that are under development. The installed geothermal capacity is already expected to double in the near term with projects that are under development, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent report for the U.S. Department of Energy by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggests that geothermal could provide 100,000 megawatts of new carbon-free electricity at less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. And, an investment of one billion dollars, less than the price of one coal-fired power plant, could make this resource commercially viable within 15 years. The potential payoff is huge. It is estimated that electricity from geothermal sources could provide 10 percent of the U.S. baseload energy needs in 2050.
And, what if we got more serious about energy efficient lighting? While I mentioned that the energy bill from last year will save tremendous amounts of energy, we need to get the technology into the homes of every American. Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs use ¼ the energy and last 10 times as long of traditional incandescent bulbs. Vermont has distributed more than 1 million CFL bulbs in the last 3 years and is poised to distribute 600,000 more CFL bulbs in 2008, so the state is a real success story. And, as I already said, from CFLs, we will move to light emitting diode technology - LEDs. LED lighting, which use even less energy and avoid some of the concerns about the small amounts of mercury in CFLs are where we are headed. What if every community around the country switched out their inefficient lightbulbs? The energy savings would be tremendous.
I could talk in depth about the potential of biomass, small and large scale hydro, and biofuels but I think you get the point I am trying to make: we face an important opportunity right now and the potential for renewable energy is nearly endless. And, the world is watching us. On a per person basis, we Americans emit twice as much as carbon dioxide as our friends in Japan and the United Kingdom, five times as much as the Chinese, in spite of their recent growth, and 19 times as much carbon dioxide as India on a per person basis. The whole world knows that the US is a major source of the problem. We need to show the kind of leadership, leadership by example, that the world and we ourselves expect of America. If we fail to act, there is just about a zero chance that the developing world, China, India, Brazil and others, will feel compelled to do more than we are doing. So, we must take bold action, very soon.
So, let me end by saying that while we face a tremendous challenge, we also a face tremendous opportunity. As we move forward, each and every one of us must be guided by one simple question: "Did I try my best? Did I do everything I could?" This is the question I will use to judge myself. It is the question I will use to judge my colleagues. It is the question I encourage you all to ask of yourselves and your elected officials.
Thank you for having me this afternoon and I look forward to working with you in the future.