Our Environment - No Time to Waste

The debate over global warming is over. Virtually every responsible scientist accepts that we are in a period of rapid climate change, caused by human activity and generating disastrous short- and long-term consequences. Even the Bush Administration is starting to recognize that its lack of action on this issue has been irresponsible. In recent years, we have gotten a glimpse of the damage caused by our actions. If we don't act now, we'll see much worse.

Our environment is at the cornerstone of the type of world we will leave our children. That's why I have made green issues a priority throughout my time in public service. One of my first campaigns involved working to protect the Occoquan Reservoir as president of the Fairfax League of Women Voters. I helped develop "polluter pays" legislation, for which the League of Conservation Voters honored me as a national environmental hero in 1994. The state chapter of the LCV did the same in 2003, lauding me as among the first to stand up for real land use planning in Virginia.

Since the 1980s, the federal government has taken significant steps on environmental issues, whether it was the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or expanding the National Park System. The Bush Administration has rolled back that progress, and that is unacceptable. We need legislation to reduce America's carbon emissions by 20% over the next 12 years and by 80% by 2050. I've had success pushing green policies through Congress before. I intend to add to that record.

Incentives to Save the Planet

There's no doubt that setting tough emission standards is an important first step in helping to save our planet. But if we want the reduction to happen we're going to have to find sensible ways to get the private sector on board. Once in Congress, I will co-sponsor bills that set up cap-and-trade programs, so that we can meet exacting emissions standards in a cost-effective way. Cap-and-trade rewards companies who limit their impact on the planet by allowing them to sell extra credits to companies who are unable to do so and still remain in business. I will also continue the fight for Polluter Pays programs, which have been hobbled under the Bush Administration. When we first passed that law, it took the burden off of taxpayers and gave companies a reason to clean up their act. Weakening it is nothing short of corporate welfare at the expense of our planet's future.

Bolstering the Economy through Clean Energy

Green power sources like solar and wind are the future of this country. The technology is available, and has already helped cut prices and produce clean electricity across the country. All that is holding us back is lack of political will. I will introduce and push for legislation to aggressively transition us towards more use of renewable sources of power. Setting a 20% renewable energy standard would reduce carbon emissions as much as taking more than 36 million cars off of the road. At the same time, it will allow this country to pursue a foreign policy governed by our values and not our need to keep the oil flowing, while creating jobs and investment opportunities in America instead of sending our dollars overseas.

Saving Money and Reducing Emissions

As the cost of gas skyrockets, it's hard to imagine anyone opposing more fuel-efficient cars. Cutting down on our fuel use will drastically reduce prices at the pump and will greatly contribute to shrinking our total carbon emissions. Current proposals to raise CAFE standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 are a good start, but these standards are not beyond the capacity of the manufacturers. Fleet averages in Europe and Japan are closing in on 50 MPG, and we should be looking to keep pace with them. As your representative, I'll work to provide consumers with a greater number of fuel-efficient automobiles at lower costs by offering manufacturers incentives to mass produce these vehicles.

Investing in the Future

We need to develop the next generation of researchers and programs in energy technology. I support doubling federal investment in energy research and setting up a new organization to guide that investment using the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency as a model. DARPA manages and directs selected research and development projects with high risk and payoffs. The Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA-E) will be a broker to identify industry, university and national lab resources, coordinate research and encourage innovative solutions, making the transition to a clean energy economy that much smoother.

Working on a Global Scale

Global warming negatively impacts everything from agriculture to fishing, while drying up our water supplies and increasing the possibility of horrific natural disasters. These aren't just American problems, and we need to join with the rest of the world in fighting to stop them. The United States should be a leader in international environmental efforts. I will push to work with our partners across the world to move towards a 50% reduction in pollution levels worldwide. I will also continue to fight for fair trade. When NAFTA came before the House in 1993, I voted against it because I felt that it would hurt us in the long run. It has turned out to be a disaster for the environment, as well as the American worker. We need to revisit our agreements so that we can include binding requirements for compliance with environmental treaties, and we must refuse to sign onto any trade agreement that would weaken our own laws.

Keeping America Green

Though we need to start doing much more on a national and global scale, we shouldn't stop making progress on more local issues. That's how I first became aware of the environmental challenges we faced, and it's as important now as it was back then. I will keep on fighting for more intelligent land use policy in Congress, whether it's codifying the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, making the federal tax incentives for land conservation permanent, or reforming the 1872 Mining Law to safeguard water resources. I'll support legislation to reaffirm the historic scope of the Clean Water Act, and will work to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and the moratorium on new offshore drilling.