Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: Hon. Alcee L. Hastings
Co-Chairman - Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


Good morning. I’m pleased that the Commission is talking today about the relationship between climate change policies and our economy. For my home state of Florida, climate change is a serious issue. And about 10 years ago I held a forum in Ft. Lauderdale focused on climate change and sea level rise. The panelists included a climatologist from the University of Miami, the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States, and the founder of a now a defunct environmental group called “Ozone Action.” Interestingly, the founder of that group, John Passacantando, went on to become the Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, a job he left a few months ago. In any case, the forum was sparsely attended and barely noticed by the media. You couldn’t give this stuff away. But now—a bit belatedly—we are hopefully taking this issue seriously and giving it our full attention.

But talk about bad timing. We just received the President’s $3 trillion-dollar-plus budget and we are moving into unchartered territory with massive stimulus packages trying to stem the bleeding in the economy. Into this unpredictable mix add the fact that we have the incredibly urgent need to enact climate change legislation that—if we get it right—will radically alter our economy yet again. Perhaps this is the wrong time to try this—but we don’t have the luxury of time. Or perhaps this is the perfect time to build new industries from the ashes of our old economy.

We know that we have a lot of work to do to reduce green house gas emissions. For example, commercial buildings account for 18 percent of U.S. green house gas emissions. We can decrease those emissions by at least half by retrofitting buildings so they are less energy-intensive. We can also reduce our dependence on fossil fuels by increasing our production and consumption of alternative sources like wind, solar and biomass. The good news is that economists tell us that green technology is more labor intensive than traditional energy sources such as oil and nuclear—as much as by a factor of 2 or 3—so if we can look at industries revolving around retrofitting buildings and renewable energy sources such as biomass, then we can truly achieve a win-win situation for the economy and the environment.

But we need to get this right. Estimates and projections are all well and good, but American families are looking at this complicated and lengthy legislation and rightly asking us to ‘show me the money!” A job in hand at a cement factory is worth a lot more to a worker than a potential job in another sector. So we have our work cut out for us here in Congress as we move forward with cap and trade legislation to show our constituents where they fit in this puzzle. And as members of Congress we have to make sure we are creating the necessary conditions for those jobs to be created.

I hope our witnesses can help shed a little light on how we can accomplish this task. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. Thank you.