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The Beginning of a Revolution

On December 18, 2007, there was a sound heard across America coming from Washington D.C. It was the sound of the beginning of a revolution - the clean energy revolution. Until that day, we had been waiting 30 years for the first shot to be fired in this effort to totally transform America's energy economy. That wait finally ended six months ago when I joined 234 of my colleagues  in the House of Representatives and passed a comprehensive clean energy bill that finally broke the strangle hold of the oil and gas industry on congress and ushered in the era of clean energy. With oil and gas prices now through the roof, it is important to revisit the successes of that day. Our fuel efficiency standards were last raised in 1975. Since then we have developed the internet, mapped the human genome, and even invented the cup holder, but our cars get less mileage than they did in 1985. The passage of the clean energy bill raised mileage standards 40% to a combined fleet average requirement of 35 m.p.g. by 2022. We accomplished this feat after years of frustration due to the growing thirst by Americans for efficient cars, the commanding certainty of the science of global warming, and the fearless leadership of Nancy Pelosi who took no prisoners in her relentless quest to reshape our energy economy. As one who has been fighting this battle for years, and having just co-authored with Bracken Hendricks the book Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's Clean Energy Economy which calls for just this action in, it was a thrill to be on the floor exchanging high fives with my allies after the resounding victory last December. The particular delight was in knowing that the mileage standard improvements were just one of a heavenly host of leaps forward the bill made. In writing Apollo's Fire, it became obvious that we need an entire suite of new technologies and practices to tame global warming, so it was a real pleasure to have produced a bill that would have called forth the country's genius to develop and deploy the whole panoply of measures we need from solar power, to wind power, to electrified cars, to the thousands of ways we can conserve energy. The cumulative impact of the actions in the bill will be staggering. When implemented, the bill will reduce the amount of CO2 the nation puts out by the entire amount spewed by our cars and trucks annually. That is a great first step on the long road to reducing our emissions by 80%, the reduction we will have to do to stop CO2 levels from more than doubling pre-industrial levels. This success would flow from the combination of the many requirements in the bill. These include a requirement that lighting efficiency be improved radically, cooling and heating systems be improved dramatically, building codes be improved to achieve a 50% reduction in energy by our buildings, and utilities being given the obligation to start helping their customers save energy, rather than the utilities just trying to maximize profits by selling more electricity, a measure know as "decoupling."  Steps like these have allowed California to keep its per capita energy use stable while the rest of the country has gone up 60% in twenty years. Now it's time for the nation to enjoy similar success.


Jay Inslee represents the First District of the State of Washington (Seattle area) in the United States House of Representatives. He is the co-author of Apollo’s Fire: Igniting America’s Clean Energy Economy.