The Senate moved closer to a showdown over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline this week.
Senators voted 79-20 to take up an energy efficiency bill that Keystone supporters want to amend with language authorizing immediate construction of the controversial oil pipeline from Canada to the United States.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also support a measure to speed approval of terminals to export liquefied natural gas.
And Republican Senators have prepared other amendments to the energy bill, including one that would block the EPA from imposing new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.
That debate will likely be contentious especially in the wake of the Obama Administration’s release this week of a peer-reviewed scientific report which sounded the alarm on the predicted impact of climate change.
President Obama: “Those who are already feeling the effects of climate change don’t have time to deny it. They’re busy dealing with it. Farmers see crops wilted one year, washed away the next, and higher food prices get passed on to you, the American consumer. As a president, as a father, and as an American, I am here to say we need to act.”
Those words spoken at Georgetown University nearly one year ago kicked off President Obama’s National Climate Action Plan, an effort to evaluate and implement solutions regarding the impact of climate change across the nation. And this week, the White House outlined some of the findings with its third National Climate Assessment.
Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer: "This is a Congressionally mandated report, comes out every five years or so. It's five years in the making. It's 840 pages and it's to say what climate change is doing to America. Other reports look globally, this is looking specifically at the United States, and drills down into regions, eight different regions in the United States. And essentially it's saying: it's here, it's changing America. Thinking of America, the beautiful sort of becoming America the stormy, the sneezy, and the dangerous.”
The research began in 2012, and was conducted by nearly 300 scientists and government officials. It was examined rigorously by experts and members of the public. And, after scrutinizing the report, the National Academy of Sciences, called it ‘reasonable’ and ‘a valuable resource.’
According to the researchers, long-term, independent records from weather stations, satellites, and other data sources confirm that the U.S. -- like the rest of the world -- is warming, due to the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity.
Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer: “One of the ways this report talks about most affecting our daily lives is in the extreme weather - the heat waves, the storms, the droughts, the downpours."
The climate assessment reports wide-ranging changes in every region of the country. They include economic effects like the billions of dollars spent on disaster relief. While some of these variances may yield short- term benefits, such as longer growing seasons in the Midwest, many more climactic shifts are detrimental. And the Obama Administration cautions against inactivity in the face of such data.
Dr. John Holdren, Science Advisor to the President: “On the whole, summers are longer and hotter, with longer periods of extended heat. Wildfires start earlier in the spring and continue later into the fall. Rain comes down in heavier downpours. People are experiencing changes in the length and severity of seasonal allergies. And climate disruptions to water resources and agriculture have been increasing.”
Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer: "The Obama administration is using this to say okay, we're going to act on climate change. But, many of the actions require Congressional approval, and that's not getting anywhere so far."
The report was not without critics. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Obama was likely to ‘use the platform to renew his call for a national energy tax. And I'm sure he'll get loud cheers from liberal elites — from the kind of people who leave a giant carbon footprint and then lecture everybody else about low-flow toilets.’
In his first term, President Obama proposed a system that capped emissions and allowed companies to trade carbon pollution credits. But Congress failed to approve “Cap and Trade” and the President has not called for a specific tax on fossil fuel emissions.
Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, an outspoken critic of anthropogenic global warming, meaning climate change caused by humans -- echoed fossil-fuel industry reaction to the National Climate Assessment.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma: “The whole idea of this report, by design, is to spark fear in the American people, so they’ll go along with the administration in implementing their policies that will kill fossil fuels and leave us with nothing but a broken economy. We are dependent on fossil fuels - coal, oil and gas for 75% of the energy to run America. Then what’s going to happen to our economy if we extract 75%? Well I think we all know logically, what’s going to happen.”