A wise man once said, "Great ideas originate in the muscles." That man, Thomas Edison, launched the original electricity revolution. As Congress moves to end our addiction to foreign oil, we would also be wise to look to the muscle of the American worker.
The comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation — the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act — that passed the House with bipartisan support last year is a jobs-generator and a money-saver that offers a solution to our energy, national security and economic challenges.
By investing in clean energy jobs that can't be shipped overseas, our bill rests on the foundation of a compromise reached with a diverse group of business leaders, labor unions, consumer groups and environmental organizations who worked with us to craft legislation that will unleash private-sector investment in clean energy and efficiency technologies that will save families and businesses money.
If we do not take the lead in this clean energy challenge, we will lose jobs now, later and possibly forever.
Last year, China surged past the United States to become the top investor in clean energy. Driven by a $34.6 billion investment in technology, which doubled their previous efforts, the Chinese are landing new manufacturing jobs instead of the United States.
In America, we invented solar. But now we trail Germany in solar deployment. In 2008, the Europeans added 13 times more solar energy capacity than the United States.
In January, the Burj Khalifa — the tallest building on the face of the planet — opened in the oil-rich Dubai. Every story stretching skyward tells the tale of the largest transfer of wealth in the world — the $200 billion American consumers sent abroad last year to buy foreign oil and petroleum products, representing more than 40 percent of our trade deficit.
Meanwhile, across the Persian Gulf in Iraq and Afghanistan, oil addiction keeps American troops in harm's way.
The House of Representatives has stepped up and said enough is enough.
U.S. Energy and Climate Solutions
As we crafted this historic legislation, the House bill made sure that every region of the country and every sector of the economy had a seat at the table. We chose a comprehensive approach, looking to not only bolster existing American energy production, but also to cut carbon pollution and create investments in jobs and brand new industries.
Addressing the problem of carbon pollution with a 17 percent reduction by 2020 and more than 80 percent by 2050, the House targets were a signal to the world that the United States was resuming its international leadership leading into the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen. There, for the first time, President Barack Obama was able to bring China and India to the negotiating table.
Key elements of our comprehensive legislation include a 20 percent renewable energy standard and cost-saving efficiency measures for appliances and buildings. Waxman-Markey also calls for the development of a smart grid and the use of domestic resources such as natural gas, biomass and low-carbon fuel sources.
The legislation invests in advanced carbon capture and sequestration for coal, a technology that is not only critical for the future of domestic coal but for building a bridge to China and India in the fight against global pollution.
Building off the success of increased fuel economy standards, the Waxman-Markey legislation also contains provisions to help automakers and entrepreneurs get next-generation electric vehicles rolling off assembly lines that have been left idle by the recession.
While some have falsely claimed that our legislation did nothing for nuclear power, the reality is the Nuclear Energy Institute endorsed our bill. By moving to a market-based, low-carbon economy, nuclear power will have a chance to compete.
Protecting Consumers, Jobs and the Deficit
The House bill also focuses on protecting consumers from energy price spikes. Families and small business have been hit the hardest by price spikes and $4 gas that is indicative of our old energy economy's dependence on foreign oil. That is why Waxman-Markey ensures that 55 percent of the revenues generated from polluters under our plan are directed back to consumers.
Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) crafted provisions in the legislation to stop the outsourcing of American jobs and to ensure that the clean energy age will be driven by American steel, cement and glass, preventing the shift of pollution and jobs to other countries.
The House approach, as noted by the Congressional Budget Office, will not increase the federal deficit while raising an additional $846 billion from polluters over the next decade.
It's time to invest American money into American jobs. The Waxman-Markey legislation will retool America's manufacturing backbone and call on innovators and entrepreneurs to roll up their sleeves, unleashing a new age of clean technology solutions. Because it turns out the best way to fight foreign oil is with a little elbow grease.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and the Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee.