Politicians in Washington, D.C., are finally listening to the voice of people outside the Beltway. The U.S. Senate recently took a major step forward to fight global warming, reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, and help people deal with the rising cost of gas.
In a move supported by Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the Senate agreed to raise average fuel efficiency standards for new cars and SUVs by 10 miles per gallon over the next decade. This single act will save Americans money at the pump and reduce tailpipe emissions - the fastest growing source of pollution causing global warming.
Congress hasn't updated fuel economy standards in 30 years. Thanks to Smith and Wyden, automakers will make the necessary changes to deliver more fuel efficient cars and trucks. This vote was important, and it's good to see our elected officials do what is seriously needed.
But in terms of what we're up against, this was only the first step. There are still lots of hurdles to jump before Americans see major legislation enacted that slashes global warming pollution and puts us on the road to recovery and energy independence.
In the course of a few days, the Senate gave the nation's fuel efficiency a long overdue tune-up, House leaders promised to kick-start the renewable energy sector, and the last of the Big Three U.S. automakers signaled they're ready to roll up their sleeves and work with Congress on a plan to slash U.S. global warming pollution from all major sources by 10-30 percent within 15 years, and up to 80 percent by 2050.
The scientists are clear: If we move promptly to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming by at least 2 percent per year every year, we can avoid a tipping point beyond which global warming will bring expensive and unwelcome consequences.
Here in Oregon, global warming cannot be ignored. Oregon's anglers understand how vulnerable salmon and steelhead are to even slight changes in stream temperature, and in recent years when milder winters have meant lower snowpack, we see the effect later in the summer when stream flows are low.
In 2001, more than 2 million people spent nearly $2.1 billion on hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing in Oregon, which in turn supported 42,590 jobs in the state.
I believe in an America that is a leader - in innovation and technology. A clean energy economy will be an economy that creates new wealth and industry with good paying jobs for Americans.
As of June 27, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all have joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition that includes many of the world's largest corporations along with National Wildlife Federation and other respected conservation organizations.
The writing is on the wall and it's in big letters: Now that Congress put the fuel economy updates on the books, let's move on to bigger and more innovative solutions to tackle our impact on climate change. Each of us can take action now, today, by installing compact fluorescent bulbs, adding air to our tires before the summer picnic, and by demanding that elected officials pass laws that require American Industry to cut emissions.
Delay will be costly.
The greenhouse gas emissions we pump into the atmosphere will linger for decades, trapping heat and changing the climate.
It's not fair to ask our children and their children to pay the price for inaction.
The most patriotic action we can all take is call on politicians to do something entirely new and different - cut through the morass in Washington, D.C., and pass effective legislation that will reduce global warming pollution through a national cap-and-trade emissions reduction plan.
With a Congress that is willing to set environmental goals, American industry and big business truly will step up to the plate. American families will, too. We can's afford not to. But first, we must insist our elected officials step up.
Liz Hamilton is executive director Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association with offices in Oregon City.