Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday chaired a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on "green jobs."
One of the witnesses who testified at Tuesday's hearing was David Blittersdorf, founder of NRG Systems, a Hinesburg, Vt.-based manufacturer of wind energy measurements systems. His newest venture, Earth Turbines, hopes to bring small wind energy technology to homes across the country.
"NRG and Earth Turbines represent only a piece of the growing wind industry, which is becoming a larger source of domestic energy production while producing hundreds of thousands of new jobs," he testified. "To keep providing new green jobs, spurring rural economic development and addressing global warming, the wind industry needs Congress to send strong signals."
Sanders and Senator Barbara Boxer, the committee chairman, are the lead sponsors of the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act. The most aggressive measure in Congress on global warming, it calls for reducing emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Said Sanders, "The science is settled: to avert the worst effects of global warming, we must change our ways and we must do it quickly. We must do it quickly not only because millions of people across the globe are at risk of losing access to clean drinking water or because our military leaders tell us we should expect armed conflicts due to environmental refugees, for these reasons are obvious. In my view, it is absolutely imperative that we be bold, that we be aggressive, that we listen to the scientific community, that we save this planet from irreparable damage.
"I know some have suggested that if we move forward aggressively severe economic dislocation will take place. Let me respectfully disagree. While there will be, of course, economic dislocation, dislocation that Congress must address, at the end of the day as we move away from fossil fuels and toward energy efficiency and renewable energy, we can create millions of good paying jobs, jobs that will help us create a stronger economy, not a weaker economy.
"I come from a rural state and there are estimates that we can create hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs in rural America as we move forward toward bio-fuels.
"We are beginning to see in Germany, Japan and California the creation of large numbers of jobs in solar technology, an area I believe has enormous potential for our entire country. Imagine what it would mean in America if we were building photo-voltaic units for millions of homes, if we were building solar power plants, if we were researching improved solar technology. How many new jobs would be created as we make this planet cleaner and safer?
"The same is true for wind technology - both in terms of small wind turbines and large wind farms. Imagine what it would mean to our economy if we produced and installed millions of small wind turbines all across our country that can provide, on average, half the electricity a home utilizes.
"And there is geothermal, and many other technologies. Of course, there is the whole issue of energy efficiency and retrofitting our homes, our offices, our schools, our factories. And, what about our transportation system, with a more efficient way of producing cars that get more miles per gallon, as well as a new rail system.
"Our job as a government is to send a strong signal about where we want to go in the future. We do this by supporting green technologies and getting them in the hands of consumers. By doing this, we will transform and modernize our economy and create millions of good paying jobs.
"To be clear, a weak signal won't do the trick - it won't lead to nearly as many new "green collar" jobs as will a strong one. The bolder we are, the clearer it is that America is going to help lead the way to a new global future. In fact, the United States must reduce emissions by at least 80 percent compared to 1990 levels, by the year 2050.
"It is time for a new green economy to make these reductions a reality and today's hearing will begin to illustrate some of the tremendous opportunities that are out there - if only we are brave enough to put in place the policies that will open the floodgates for jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
"We know that in a purely economic analysis, inaction on global warming is more costly than action. According to Sir Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, "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."
"Let me note that it is quite appropriate for us to be having this hearing today - 2 days before the President begins his "Major Economies Meeting on Climate Change." As I understand it, the administration has made it clear going into this meeting that two things are off the table: 1) Mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and 2) Cap and Trade proposals. I hope today's hearing shows the administration that everyday they spend fighting against bold action is a day that this country loses opportunities for job development and economic advancement. Pure and simple - this administration is holding back growth in the green economy of the future.
"In closing, there is no doubt that if we act boldly, if we act aggressively, we can break our dependency on fossil fuels, substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions, move to sustainable energy and, in the process, create millions of good paying jobs.