On Wednesday, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) released draft text of the American Power Act, which Sen. Kerry wrote will take the United States on a path toward “clean energy, a more stable climate, and a more prosperous economy with America back in control of our own energy generating good clean energy jobs.”
A future that involves clean air, increased use of clean energy sources, and more jobs sounds like a promising future. As the Executive Director of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE), I applaud Sens. Kerry and Lieberman for taking the initiative to listen to all sides of the debate in the quest to create fair and responsible energy policies for our country. The draft text contains a number of provisions—like incentives to increase our use of nuclear power and natural gas, for example—that will be important components of an affordable energy plan.
However, the draft text is vague and far from final, and Congress must be careful that the details don’t do more harm than good to the economy and jobs. As the bill’s details are revealed and analyzed, it is important that we not get swept up in the feel-good provisions about “clean air,” but instead remain focused on finding reliable energy sources for Americans while keeping an eye on cost and jobs.
The recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, combined with increasingly high energy bills, is proof that Congress must consider all sources of energy when passing an energy plan for our country. It is clear now more than ever that we must take full advantage of the abundance of resources found at home to solve our energy dilemma.
In particular, it is important that we recognize that the United States has a wide variety of energy resources in different areas of the country. In the draft text, Sens. Kerry and Lieberman cite the need to increase our use of clean energy sources and develop renewable energy technology at home. While these provisions can be a part of an energy package, we must be careful that we do not mandate a “one-size-fits-all” approach when increasing our use of clean energy resources. As we attempt to integrate more clean energy sources and create so-called “clean energy jobs,” we must keep in mind that regions vastly differ in terms of what resources are readily available to them. Furthermore, we must be careful that we do not harm states that rely on traditional sources of energy, like coal and oil, and that we do not destroy existing jobs by high energy prices in the process.
The American Power Act is expected to “transform our economy.” However, whether it transforms it for the better or the worse remains to be seen. If Congress puts jobs, the economy, and the need for affordable and reliable power first, then perhaps the bill will be a good thing for our country. But, if Congress does not keep an eye on the cost implications, the energy bill could prove to be disastrous.
Lance Brown is executive director of PACE (Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy).