Many of us have been…let’s just say “irritated” at Sen. Mark Warner recently for his misguided emphasis on austerity, as well as his votes on issues ranging from guns (he voted the right way on watered-down background checks, but the wrong way on several other important gun issues) to energy/environment (the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline disaster, first and foremost). So, it was much to my surprise – and pleasure – to see this morning’s editorial by Sen. Warner in Politico, entitled “Reboot Earth Day.”
Frankly, when I saw the title and who wrote it, I was thinking it was going to be a Warner’s usual drivel about how we needed an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, even as the science tells that we need to sharply slash fossil fuel consumption, starting ASAP, and drastically ramp up clean energy, including the biggest bang for the buck – energy efficiency. But then…that’s not what he wrote at all. Check this out.
So, how do we save and move Earth Day into the 21st century?
For starters, we need to get smarter about our governing policies, and create cross-industry standards that support the environment, promote clean energy, and drive economic growth. It’s critical that we recognize stewardship and growth not as mutually exclusive, but as complementary goals.
Exactly! Now THIS is the Mark Warner I used to believe “got it” on energy and environmental issues, in this case debunking the commonly-heard, but utterly false, meme that protecting our planet is somehow antithetical to economic “growth” (whatever that means, exactly). Even better, Warner starts sounding like, well, ME of all people, extolling the virtues of energy efficiency (he calls it “energy productivity,” which actually might be an even better description of what we’re talking about here), and even encouraging policies with that goal in mind. Here’s Warner:
Every utility across the U.S. should connect with their customers and communities by better encouraging energy productivity. Meeting that challenge nationwide could add another 1.3 million jobs, cut carbon emissions and oil and gas imports by a third, boost GDP by 2 percent, and eliminate waste equal to the nation’s entire household credit card debt.
That’s exactly right, so why aren’t utilities – including the abysmal Dominion Virginia Power (unofficial slogan: “Global Warming Starts HERE!”) doing that? Warner clearly “gets it” there too, noting that the “antiquated regulatory paradigm that ties utility profits to generating and selling more energy is actually encouraging waste and stalling investment and innovation.”
Clearly, that needs to change, in large part via “decoupling” utility profits from how much power they produce. We could also provide enormous incentives for consumers to save energy by putting a realistic price on the “externalities” – pollution, damages to human health, national security costs – that result from our fossil fuel addiction. Warner doesn’t talk about any of those in this editorial, nor does he mention the obvious answer – a carbon tax, the revenues from which are returned to the American people and/or used to pay down the debt (Warner, with his debt fixation, should LOVE that one!). Still, Warner’s editorial nails it on energy efficiency, or as he calls it “energy productivity,” and that’s worth praising.
The question is, can Warner and other Senators turn this understanding into actual legislation, in a Congress that appears incapable of seriously addressing any of our nation’s most pressing issues? We’ll see, but for the moment I’m just glad – and somewhat shocked, to be blunt – to see that Warner and I are in strong agreement for a change. Now, if he’d just ditch the “all-of-the-above” nonsense (note: the reason it’s nonsense is global warming, period end – if we burn all that fossil fuel, we’re f***ed), and start focusing all his energies on how to transition our country to a clean, sustainable energy economy as quickly as possible, we might really be getting somewhere…