Home Energy and Environment “Reboot Earth Day”: Sen. Mark Warner Nails it On Energy Efficiency

“Reboot Earth Day”: Sen. Mark Warner Nails it On Energy Efficiency

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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…

  • Jarew

    As a Virginian  I sincerely hope Senator Warner means what he says and shows it with legislation and voting. His support for the Keystone pipeline makes me skeptical.   Talk is cheap.  

  • pontoon

    are the huge driver of climate change, there are other factors that must be considered as well.  In the last 50 years, over 80,000 new chemicals have been introduced into our environment, most of which have never been tested for their positive or negative effects on human, animal or plant life.  Many of these chemicals are used in our homes, on the food we eat, in the water we drink.  Some have been outlawed in Europe, but here in the good old USA, it seems the usual suspect, money, comes before our environment and our health.

  • Warner wants to say yes to clean energy AND yes to dirty coal, tar sands, etc. He can’t have it both ways.

  • From State Senator and AG candidate Mark Herring:

    The annual observance of Earth Day allows us to focus on how we as citizens can do our part to become better stewards of the environment in our daily lives.  Earth Day helps to both educate and inspire action. Often times, environmental issues take a back seat in our public discourse, but recent historic weather events have elevated the issue of climate change on the national agenda. As policymakers, we have the responsibility to have a serious discussion, grounded in the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, about the impact of human activity on our climate and the responsible steps that we can take to address it.

    As Attorney General, I will work to enforce common sense laws that protect our air, water and open space.  When it comes to our environment, my office will be guided by the law and by science, not political ideology.  I support increased investment in alternative energy and an early and vocal opponent of the effort to lift Virginia’s ban on uranium mining and milling.

    I am proud of my record in the State Senate and I look forward to continuing to work to protect our environment as Attorney General and promote a healthier and more sustainable future for the citizens of our Commonwealth.

     

  • kindler

    Glad to see Warner embracing energy efficiency — it’s hard to think of a more moderate, common sense, cost-efficient, smart policy than that.  Can’t hurt his “centrist” branding one iota.  

    So let’s challenge him to follow up his excellent message here with a strong push for actual, solid energy efficiency legislation — including telling all his Republican and business pals: “Hey, I’ve taken hits for being seen with you, so it’s time for you to pay me back by supporting this bill and getting your party members to let it pass.”  

    Time to throw your base not just a bone, but a whole meaty drumstick…