Nowhere is our commitment to future generations more tested than in how we treat the environment we give to them. Developing the models for true sustainability must happen now, before it's too late to sufficiently respond to climate change and rising sea levels, extreme weather, and prolonged drought.
America Needs a Sustainable Energy Policy
As a member of Congress, I consider the development of a sustainable energy policy a top priority.
I serve as the Chair of the Climate Task Force within the Sustainable Energy & Environment Caucus. We are working to create green collar jobs by advancing policies that promote clean energy, domestic manufacturing, and the development of renewable energy resources.
As a nation, we must work toward a long-term energy policy that: 1) creates new American jobs; 2) emphasizes greater energy independence; 3) invests in the development of alternative fuels; 4) promotes clean energy technology like wind and solar; and 5) ensures greater national security.
San Diego is home to around 1,000 clean tech companies and has been recognized as one of the nation's leaders for green vehicles and expansion of solar adoption.
In Congress, I've focused on measures to promote and help fund science and technology education, plus developing new programs to help students prepare for green jobs that will grow along with our clean energy sector.
That isn't just good for our environment, it's good for our economy. Solar jobs are jobs anchored in the community, and they don’t carry the same volatility as the prices of fossil fuels like oil. In fact, a nationwide study conducted by Environment California ranked San Diego as the second most “solar city” in America based on cumulative solar capacity. And we’re just getting started.
It's also important that the federal government set a good example. That's why I cosponsored the Energy Efficiency Government Technology Act to require that federal data centers be energy efficient. It saves money long term and provides important leadership.
I am the co-founder of the Walkable and Livable Communities Institute, a national organization which helps city planners find ways to incorporate more bike paths, sidewalks, and pedestrian-friendly streets so that people can get around without their cars.
We did this in Bird Rock while I was a member of the San Diego City Council. We made the neighborhood safer, more walkable, and turned a strip of boulevard filled with shuttered storefronts into a thriving small business district that’s now filled with boutiques, restaurants and night life. Doing more redevelopment like this should be a part of our plan for a more sustainable energy policy and greater energy independence.
It’s also critical that we advance policies to sufficiently respond to climate change and protect our nation's clean air, water, and environment. Unfortunately, I’m being challenged by those who choose to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence collected by many of the world's best research institutions that makes clear that climate change is a real, immediate threat.
Maybe it’s that sort of mentality that led The League of Conservation Voters to call the Congresses of 2011 and 2012 “the most anti-environmental U.S. House of Representatives in history.” But I’m working to change that culture.
Congress should act to stop price-gouging at the pump by holding Wall Street commodities traders and speculators more accountable. Experts agree that speculation in energy markets drives up the price of oil, which raises the price of gas for consumers.
Over time, Congress must develop and support a long-term energy strategy that reduces our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels altogether. I’ve voted against increases in oil drilling both onshore and offshore without sufficient safety protections in place, and pressed to hold coal producers accountable for their impact on the environment, their workers, and surrounding communities.
But while we work toward the right mix of sustainable energy and environmental protection, it's critical that we take the consequences of extreme weather seriously. I've helped lead calls for more resources to support drought victims and combat wildfires. I also introduced the bipartisan STRONG Act to provide resources at the state and local level to better prepare, plan for, and quickly recover from extreme weather like Hurricane Sandy. This is an area where we can find rare bipartisan support for addressing the harmful effects of climate change.
We also need to get better about the pollutants we pump into the air. I introduced the SUPER Act to combat so-called super pollutants, some of the worst drivers of climate change. Currently, multiple government agencies indirectly deal with these short lived climate pollutants like methane, HFCs, and black carbon, but with the SUPER Act we can make mitigation more efficient and effective. While scientists continue their hard work to address the long-term challenges of climate change, this is work we can begin doing now to not only cut climate change, but improve agriculture and save lives.
By protecting our air and water, preserving our forests and open spaces, and developing an infrastructure that allows us to consume less and recycle more, we can create the model for a healthier, safer, more sustainable world for the generations to come.