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Why Stand in the Way of Green Jobs and Economic Opportunity?

Frances Beinecke

Posted July 20, 2009 in Green Enterprise, Solving Global Warming

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America is faced with two failing systems: the economy is in turmoil and our climate is in disruption. Each one is critical to our survival, and each one needs to be fixed urgently. The fastest, most cost-effective way to do it is to mend both at once.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act will catapult America into the next phase of explosive growth and it will curb global warming. That is why the House passed it.

Now the bill is before the Senate, and urgent action is needed.

To vote no on the whole enterprise would mean saying no to American jobs and a sustainable future.

Yet that is just what a small but vocal group of naysayers is suggesting. They propose that in the face of the climate crisis and financial meltdown we should bury our heads in the sand. They advise that we ignore the growing market for clean energy solutions and let China and Europe lead the world in technological innovation.  

In other words, they want us to look backwards and jeopardize our economic, humanitarian, and ecological well being.

Why do these forces -- the Sarah Palins and Rush Limbaughs out there -- want to stand in the way of growth? What if Americans had looked at Henry Ford's motor car and said, "No, we want to hold on to our horse-drawn wagons instead." Or what if our leaders had looked at the emerging possibilities of the Internet and said, "No, information belongs in the control of the government, not in the hands of ordinary people."

If we had turned our backs on these opportunities, think of the jobs that would never have materialized in Detroit or Silicon Valley. Think of where America would be in the global marketplace of ideas and technology.

We are poised on the verge of a transformative moment of growth and innovation. The process of refashioning our energy system it into something clean and sustainable will generate growth across the nation. It will provide powerful incentives for individuals and companies to invest in emerging green technologies and the workers needed to get the job done.

The American Clean Energy and Security bill will propel us into the 21st century of clean, renewable energy. And in the process, it will:

Yet some people want to stand in the way of this growth. The course they choose looks backward not forward. It traps America in the 19th century habit of burning rocks to make energy, and it leaves us vulnerable to the whims of oil-rich but unstable foreign regimes.

But worst of all, it profoundly undermines the health of our planet. Ignoring the reality of global warming may win elections for a few years, but when persistent droughts pit Denver, Las Vegas, and Phoenix against each other in costly water battles or when raging wildfires threaten communities from Salt Lake to Santa Barbara, denial won't be in anyone's interest.  

We need to act now, before these global warming impacts hit Americans in earnest. And we need to do it before these impacts cause dangerous security threats. General Anthony Zinni, the former commander of America's forces in the Middle East, told Senator John Kerry that if we do not take action on global warming, "we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll."

That is the kind of future the naysayers would create for America. The American Clean Energy and Security Act would create one with economic growth, a stabilized climate, and American market leadership--all built on clean, renewable energy solutions.

Which future would you prefer?

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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