Thursday, April 30, 2009

Union of Concerned Scientists president testifies: Future without huge damaging costs of unchecked climate change possible

Union of Concerned Scientists president Kevin Knobloch testified April 22, 2009 before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce saying that their analysis shows that:
"...we can build a comprehensive and competitive 21st century clean energy economy that saves consumers money and gives our children a future without huge, damaging costs of unchecked climate change. A future of clean energy and cars, smart houses and clear skies is well within our technological and financial abilities.saves consumers money and gives our children a future without huge, damaging costs of unchecked climate change."
The Union of Concerned Scientists is a non-profit organization that combines independent scientific research and citizen action to develop innovative, practical solutions and to secure responsible changes in government policy, corporate practices, and consumer choices.

Here is Mr. Knobloch's testimony in full:

"Chairmen Waxman and Markey and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists. I am President of UCS, a national science-based nonprofit organization that’s been working for a healthy environment and a safer world for 40 years. I applaud the leadership of this subcommittee and the full committee for moving this issue forward at this critical time. And I’d like to thank Mr. Dingell and Mr. Boucher for getting the ball rolling in a thoughtful, knowledgeable and comprehensive way in the last Congress.

Today I am pleased to share the results of a major study we’ve conducted to examine the energy and economic implications of a comprehensive suite of energy, transportation and climate policies that we call the Climate 2030 Blueprint. We used a modified[1] version of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Modeling System for our analysis, with a baseline reference case that shows global warming emissions rising 13 percent above 2005 levels by 2030, and a clean energy blueprint case that leads to deep emissions reductions which put us on a path to stabilizing our climate and preventing catastrophic climate change.

The results of this analysis show that we can build a comprehensive and competitive 21st century clean energy economy that saves consumers money and gives our children a future without huge, damaging costs of unchecked climate change. A future of clean energy and cars, smart houses and clear skies is well within our technological and financial abilities.

To highlight just a few of our major findings, our analysis found that by 2030:

  1. Under the Blueprint, our nation meets a carbon cap of 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 56 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. We can achieve these emissions cuts cost-effectively by implementing a comprehensive set of smart energy, transportation, and cap policies. This comprehensive approach is similar to the one proposed by Chairman Waxman and Subcommittee Chairman Markey in their draft legislation.
  2. We can achieve these deep cuts in carbon emissions while saving American consumers and businesses $465 billion annually in 2030. The Blueprint also builds $1.6 trillion in cumulative net savings between 2010 and 2030.
  3. We can both reduce emissions on that scale and expand our economy between now and 2030, while keeping jobs growing at the same rate as in the reference case.
  4. We can cut the use of oil and petroleum products by 6 million barrels a day in 2030 – as much oil as we currently import from OPEC and 30 percent of our nation’s current total daily oil consumption.
  5. We can save consumers money on their energy bills because of increased energy efficiency, even though electricity rates and gasoline prices go up slightly. That means families will see average household savings of $900 a year in 2030, while businesses will, all together, save nearly $130 billion a year. Households and businesses in every region in the nation - even coal-dependent regions - will see lower energy bills.
  6. The electricity sector contributes more than half of the emissions cuts in 2030. We can reduce power plant carbon emissions 84 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The Blueprint policies will also cut mercury, acid rain, smog and soot pollution, improving air and water quality and saving lives.
  7. We can cut emissions from cars and trucks by 40 percent compared to their 2005 levels and freeze emissions from freight trucks at 2005 levels even as the economy undergoes significant growth. The transportation sector contributes the second largest area of emissions reductions and accounts for one-half of the net consumer and business energy cost savings in 2030.

The key to this success is the comprehensive policy approach we modeled. The transportation policies get us cleaner cars, cleaner fuels and better transportation options. The energy policies get us more efficient appliances and buildings, renewable energy and more efficient natural gas generation. A transparent and smartly-designed cap and trade policy assures the emissions reductions the U.S. needs to help avoid the worst effects of global warming.

This comprehensive approach is so critical that when we stripped out the sector-specific energy and transportation policies in our analysis, the cumulative savings for households and businesses by 2030 were reduced dramatically - from $1.6 trillion to $600 billion.

We did not find that all of these benefits will come for free. Energy costs may be slightly higher in the very early years as we make investments in the clean energy economy, but those investments will reap much higher savings for Americans in every region later on. Under the Blueprint policies, households and businesses will actually start paying less on their energy bills by 2013, because reductions in usage from energy efficiency more than offset the modest increase in energy prices. In transportation, there will be more upfront investment, but consumers and businesses will get even more back later as they save money on gas. Overall, the investments made early on (from 2010 to 2015) for efficiency, renewables, cars, and so on will start saving us money by 2015.

We have an historic opportunity to reinvent our economy, to make it more resilient and efficient – and to produce a bow wave of new high quality, well paying jobs, especially in regions that have strong manufacturing capacity, a seasoned, able labor force, and needed resources and infrastructure. In this new homegrown economy, we need people to build wind turbines, weatherize and retrofit homes, install solar panels and manufacture advanced cars and fuels, as well as to design, transport, maintain, repair, market and sell all of the above.

In my travels around the country, I hear a growing call for a new clean energy economy that is designed to also solve large, stubborn problems by reducing our dependence on oil, making us less vulnerable to blackouts, creating jobs, tackling climate change, and improving our families’ health. We know that if we continue down a path of no action our risks and vulnerabilities will increase, leading to significantly higher costs than if we act boldly today.

The status quo is not an option. Our analysis makes a compelling case that a forward-looking, comprehensive set of policies will jump-start the transition to a clean energy economy. The Waxman-Markey draft legislation capably starts us down that path."

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