The battle over more clean energy and less dependence on fossil fuels is being fought right now in Congress – though you might not have heard much about it.
In January, the President laid down a national challenge that 80 percent of our electricity come from cleaner sources by 2035. His just-released budget shows a strong commitment to that goal by supporting research and development of renewable energy, alternative fuels and efficiency.
But the House majority has taken a U-turn on clean energy, passing a budget that cuts renewable energy and energy efficiency programs by nearly $900 million.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget was slashed by $3 billion, and the House voted to kill all funding in the current budget that would allow the EPA to enforce greenhouse gas rules. The House budget also makes deep cuts into scientific research at the Department of Energy, and public health research at the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes on Health.
And the fight over a clean energy future isn’t just about the money. Many House members also are trying to stop enforcement of anti-pollution laws already on the books, including the Clean Air Act. Several draft bills would weaken restrictions on industrial releases of pollutants such as lead, mercury, arsenic, carbon dioxide, and particulate-matter.
Those trying to rollback the Clean Air Act claim that reducing pollutants is too hard and costly on industry, despite the historical record that shows the law is both affordable and effective. Since 1970, the Clean Air Act has cut emissions by more than 60 percent, while the U.S. economy and its businesses have boomed, growing by more than 200 percent.
The non-political Office of Management and Budget has shown that the benefits of the Act far outweigh the compliance costs. By reducing pollutants and preventing adverse health effects, countless Americans avoid asthma attacks, heart attacks and even premature death. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act saved an estimated 160,000 lives.
Economic times are tight, and federal and state budgets will have to undergo intense scrutiny to eliminate deficits. But stripping away public health protections and under-investing in clean energy development, just continues our overreliance on polluting fossil fuels, unstable foreign governments and unstable energy prices.