For generations, America has been a global leader in innovation— trying new ideas, taking risks and creating whole new industries. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, the Wright brothers—these are just a few examples of innovative American thinkers who looked around a corner and saw a brighter future. Together, they helped shape a better world for the generations of Americans still to come.
Today, climate change has emerged as the challenge of our generation and we find ourselves at a crossroads—we can shrug our shoulders and accept the dangerous status quo as a given – we will always depend primarily on fossil fuels or we can imagine and create a better world. Unfortunately, as the current debate over the Keystone XL pipeline rages on in Congress, this spark of classic American ambition has been noticeably, and tragically absent.
The facts are clear: Keystone XL is a terrible deal for the American people that will create only 35 permanent jobs while dumping millions of tons of new carbon pollution into the air, and threaten communities across the Midwest. Rather than acknowledge these facts, Republicans have chosen to undertake an empty crusade on behalf of their Big Oil backers while ignoring the real, concrete job-creating policies that could put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work building a cleaner future for our children.
This isn’t a complicated choice. Clean energy is a smart economic investment for the American middle class—one that is already paying off here in California under the exceptional climate leadership of Governor Jerry Brown. Thanks in large part to our state’s pioneering climate and clean energy legislation—including the California Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39)—there are currently 431,800 people employed at more than 40,000 firms that are furthering California’s advanced energy economy.
Change isn’t easy—the oil companies fought Prop 39 tooth-and-nail here in California—but voters in our state know that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy. By doing the right thing, we will prosper.
Just last week, Governor Brown announced an ambitious agenda to further protect California’s vital natural resources while continuing to create clean energy jobs across our state. His proposals to reduce petroleum use in cars and trucks by half and increase electricity from renewable energy to 50% within the next 15 years embody the kind of innovation and creative thinking that America needs to retain our position as a world leader.
Now it’s time for Congress to do the same.
In just the past few years, Congress has debated, but failed to pass, clean energy bills that could create and support more than 500,000 jobs for American’s families. These are commonsense policies that help deploy more clean energy and innovative energy efficiency programs that would save billions of dollars in energy waste, and strengthen our economic future. If Congress combined and passed these policies in a single Clean Energy Infrastructure, Jobs and Innovation initiative tomorrow, it would support 500,000 jobs for working Americans—jobs that would strengthen our economy while solidifying America’s international standing as an economic innovator and powerhouse. These are the kinds of jobs that Senator Barbara Boxer supported as chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, and these are the jobs that her Republican colleagues ought to be securing for their constituents.
Every job is important, but the 35 permanent jobs offered by the Keystone XL pipeline support an industry that hurts our environment—while these 500,000 clean energy jobs benefit more Americans and take our country in the right direction. Instead of fast-tracking the Keystone XL pipeline, our leaders should be focusing on creating jobs that put us on the right path toward a cleaner, more sustainable future for our children.
If we are going to lead the world on this—and I think President Obama is doing a very, very fine job—we can’t continue to go about business as usual while expecting other countries to make a change.
If we are going to be global leaders on climate change AND stay competitive in tomorrow’s economy, we need to imagine and create a different energy economy—cleaner and more advanced. President Obama has set us on the right path—working to curb emissions here at home while striking historic deals abroad with countries like China—but we must still do more. We have to start choosing innovation over oil, and including all costs of burning fossil fuels.
Here in California, we’re already leading by example—our economy, our families are thriving as a result. It’s time for our nation to do the same. We can do better—we can do right by the next generation—and that starts by rejecting Keystone XL.