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A United Effort to Make Our Air Cleaner for Us and Our Kids

Mar 20, 2008

     I commend the Tribune for elevating the debate over how we can protect our environment and clean our air. Clean air not only affects the quality of our lives, but also touches the heart of our values. Our children will inherit the environment we leave them, and like most parents, I too want to leave my kids a healthy environment and clean air that they can prosper in. Therefore, we must ask ourselves how we can make a difference to ensure our children inherit a cleaner environment?

     The Tribune advocates addressing the problem on a state-by-state basis. While not the most politically advantageous viewpoint, I hold a different opinion because I believe a united national effort best addresses our communities and country's desire for cleaner air. Clean air is a problem that not only affects our communities on the Central Coast and the Central Valley, but the entire United States of America. The genius of our Founders is they developed a Constitution that empowers states to pass their own laws, but also enables the federal government, through Article 1, Section 8, to regulate interstate commerce and address national issues in a more effective and efficient way than a patchwork of 50 individual regulations. As part of that responsibility, Congress needs to take leadership and act to modernize national safeguards that can help clean our air.

     That is why I supported increasing fuel efficiency standards over the next decade.  According to the Department of Energy, one gallon of gasoline used by a car produces 20 pounds of carbon dioxide. Therefore, reasonably increasing our fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks to 35 miles per gallon could, by some estimates, decrease carbon dioxide and other hazardous greenhouse gases from being emitted into our air by about 400 million metric tons over the next two decades.

     Furthermore, if we moved in line with the rest of the world and utilized more electricity produced through clean energy technology, such as wind, solar, geothermal, and nuclear power instead of fossil fuels, we will not only have more reliable and affordable energy, but could also emit significantly less carbon dioxide and pollution into the air. For instance, one million kilowatt-hours of electricity generated by a coal-fired power plant can produce about one billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. A clean nuclear plant, however, produces no carbon dioxide directly from generating electricity. Even France recognizes the importance of cleaner energy production, and now produces approximately 80 percent of its electricity through clean nuclear power, and its air quality is rated one of the cleanest in the world.

     We don't just have to look across oceans to find new clean energy ideas that will ultimately make our air cleaner. Our Congressional district is a beacon of new energy hope for the United States. We produce wind power in Tehachapi, geothermal energy in Ridgecrest, and solar throughout the district.  We can expand this energy potential through market-driven incentives, and I am in the final stages of drafting legislation that contributes to this debate. Additionally, earlier this year, I fought to enhance wind energy production while serving on the Natural Resources Committee and for critical funding to help prevent pollution in our air while serving on the Agriculture Committee.  I also remain open-minded to ideas to address climate change, and believe that we must all work together to reach reasonable solutions.

     I believe in the power of new clean energy ideas, and I imagine a country that does not work individually and fractured, but collectively and cooperatively to find clean air solutions. While I may disagree with some who believe the path to getting there is through a myriad of different state regulations for Americans and our businesses to wade through, I believe that by having this debate, we elevate the issue to a point where even a broken Washington can work harder to address cleaning our air. In the end, clean air for our generation and the next generation is an American issue that demands national cooperation and effort.