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Senator Schumer Responds to Oxfam Action Corps NYC Letter on Climate Change

Dear Mr. Evans-Frantz:

Thank you for your letter regarding actions that Congress should be taking to curtail global climate change. I share your concern for the health of our environment, especially the fragile balance of ecosystems that may be destroyed by the climatic changes that we are now experiencing. As Senator, I have pushed legislation that would address some of the causes of climate change, in particular by trying to reduce carbon emissions. In particular, I am a sponsor of S. 2191, the Lieberman-Warner bill called America’s Climate Security Act of 2007.

The Lieberman-Warner bill would set an economy-wide cap on carbon emissions and would allocate “credits” to various institutions to emit carbon. Although Lieberman-Warner is not as strong as I would like it to be, I believe that it is an important step in the right direction. I will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to make the bill stronger before it finally passes.

The recent passage in the Senate of H.R. 6, the Clean Energy Act of 2007, provided an important first step toward improving the ways our nation uses energy. This bill includes substantial increases in fuel economy standards for cars, including a 35mpg standard by 2020 and closing the SUV and flex-fuel-vehicle loopholes. The Senate’s success in this area will reduce our consumption of foreign oil by 10.7 billion gallons annually by 2020. I believe that H.R. 6 makes important steps towards curbing climate change. For the first time in decades, the Senate has produced a bill that does not give tax breaks to big oil, but instead gives incentives to companies to use renewable fuel sources, makes significant improvements in cars’ fuel economy, and requires improved energy efficiency in government actions.

However, there is still more to be done to reduce our consumption of petroleum and fossil fuels. In the current Congress, I have introduced two bills that seek to improve energy efficiency in practical, cost-effective ways. The first bill, S. 2078, would require states to make their building codes 30% more energy efficient. The Alliance to Save Energy estimates that if our nation were to meet these targets by 2030, the nation could save 5% of its total energy use, save consumers $50 billion a year, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by an amount equivalent to that of taking 70 million cars off the road. The second, S. 2079 would require power utilities gradually to reduce their fuel consumption by improving their efficiency to reach a final target of 10% less fuel use by 2020. The technologies exist today to achieve the increases in efficiency that my bills demand – all we need do is create incentives for their implementation. With smart changes, like these improvements in efficiency, our nation can grow our economy while shrinking our dependence on petroleum, reducing fuel costs, and protecting the environment.

I also support several other bills aimed at helping to slow this crisis. I am a co-sponsor of S. 590, Securing America's Energy Independence Act of 2007, which would extend and improve tax credits for individuals and companies to invest in solar technology. I also co-sponsored the Clean Air Planning Act, S. 1177, a multi-pollutant bill that would require fossil-fuel-fired power plants to cut their emissions of four dangerous compounds, including carbon dioxide. This bill would halt the increase in CO2 emissions in 2012 and will implement a 57% cut from today’s levels by 2050. I was also an original co-sponsor of S. 339, the DRIVE Act, which will reduce our oil use through a range of actions – from improving fuel economies to encouraging development along existing transit corridors, rather than into new areas. That bill was passed by the Senate as part of the Clean Energy Act.

Climate change matters to all of us and we need smart, pragmatic policies now if we are to address this crisis. We cannot afford to delay action in the hope that a “silver bullet” will save us: there will be no perfect new technology to produce infinite energy, no special sponge to take carbon out of the air, no global air-conditioning system. It takes lots of smart changes in the ways that we make and use energy to fix this problem, and we need to approach this complex problem from every angle possible.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can ever be of assistance to you on this or any other matter.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator