This National Energy Strategy Shows Clean Power Is Our Future

If there's a national goal we, as Americans, agree on, it's that we all want to make America great.

Well, here's a great place to start: With the types of clean energy incentives that leading Democrats in the U.S. Senate are advancing in a new comprehensive energy bill.

Their vision is as simple as it is powerful: We must move to a low carbon future.

For too long, though, the coal, gas and oil industries and their allies in government, have dictated our energy policies. That's led to a persistent dependence on fossil fuels and all the costs, damage and risk they bring.

It means that our families, communities and economy have been held hostage to the fuels that pollute our environment and our politics.

That has kept us from seizing our energy destiny, and moving toward a clean energy future--one that boosts our economy, creates good-paying clean energy jobs, saves people money on their electric bills and curbs the dangerous carbon pollution that drives climate change.

The Democratic energy bill offers many tools to seize that destiny.

First, putting climate at the forefront, the measure unveiled by Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington and allies establishes a national carbon reduction goal of 2 percent annually through 2025.

Next, fossil fuel subsidies, which have encouraged dependence, are zeroed out, while new tax incentives for clean energy are tucked in.

Those incentives will foster further development of wind and solar power, helping us get more energy from renewable sources. Energy efficiency incentives, promoted in the bill, will enable us to use energy more wisely and at a lower cost when we flip on the light switch.

Taken together, the bill's impact on our families, economy and climate would be measurably positive. Americans would save $40 billion in energy costs over the next 15 years. We'd see creation or support of 3.5 million jobs. And climate pollution could drop by 34 percent in 2025.

Finally, a critical element of this national energy vision recognizes our obligation to protect our children and future generations from the ravages of climate change.

It complements the work of the Environmental Protection Agency's landmark Clean Power Plan by providing the tools utilities and states need to meet the plan's carbon reduction goals and support from Congress to put our country on the right trajectory to invest in clean and energy-efficient technologies.

That's an energy destiny we want to reach.

We must take many steps--led by setting the first limits on power plant carbon, the largest source of climate pollution in the U.S. and around the world--and we must take them now, for a reason.

Climate change is not a far-off phenomenon. It's here. There's a 97 percent chance that 2015 will be the hottest year on record since 1880, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently announced. Already, 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred this century.

To stick with fossil fuels of our past, and not chart a path toward a cleaner future, would doom our children and future generations to more withering heat, rising seas, punishing storms, blazing wildfires and widening deserts.

We can't forsake them to that future.

The vision of many Republicans would do so. It will lead us to a dirty energy future and would have very real and very negative consequences for our health and livelihood.

The climate inaction agenda is to keep up--even double down on--our habits of the last two centuries despite the fact that we now know them to be destructive. And the Republican leadership excuse of supposed inaction internationally is a non-starter when we see China with double the solar energy of the United States and a strong commitment to reduce its carbon pollution.

It's notable, for example, that through a GOP measure known as the OPENS Act, the floodgates would open on offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean, and the ban on exporting U.S. crude oil would be removed. That would lock us into dependence on fossil fuels for decades.

Ask yourself: Is this a forward-leaning energy vision? No. It's the opposite: A backward-looking one keeping us tied to fossil fuels of the past.

That's why the Democratic energy proposal contains so many important actions. Reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Cutting carbon pollution. Powering our cities from the wind and sun. Making our cars and trucks go farther on less fuel. Wasting less energy from our buildings and appliances.

That's how we'll clean up our air, create clean energy technologies and provide jobs for workers and companies in the 21st Century economy.

And that's how we'll demonstrate America's greatness--by exercising leadership showing the world that together, with everyone doing their part, we can avoid the worst impacts of climate change.