Since the beginning of my service as a legislator, I have made ending our addiction to fossil fuels a high priority.
Ending our addiction to oil, gas and coal will have a host of benefits:
- Reducing our economy’s vulnerability to energy price fluctuations
- Lowering international conflict and military expenditures
- Cutting local air pollution
- Keeping dollars in our local economy instead of exporting them
- Controlling global warming and climate change
- Developing local clean energy industries — green jobs
In 2008, I worked hard to help pass the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA), which requires the state to develop and implement a clean energy plan reducing carbon emissions 20% by the year 2020 and 80% by 2050. The Secretary of Environmental Affairs has created a web page about the Act and the plan at this link.
The plan recognizes that there is no single magic bullet — that we need a portfolio of different kinds of measures to achieve the goal of reducing fossil fuel use dramatically over the next few decades. The plan provides a thoughtful framework and evaluates the contribution of each measure towards that goal. I’ve lead sponsored a bill in the present session to extend and strengthen the planning process created by the Global Warming Solutions Act (House 219).
In the last half of 2010, I participated in a set of conversations convened by the Environmental League of Massachusetts to prioritize further legislative steps towards fossil fuel use reduction. Those conversations highlighted the need for further legislative action in the following areas and I have sponsored or cosponsored legislation towards in each area.
- Cleaning up electricity generation in MA by eliminating coal burning power plants (House 2612 and House 2613 and House 2614)
- Reducing transportation related emissions
- More consistently incorporating sustainable development principles in state agency actions (House 1125 — lead sponsor)
- Improving building energy efficiency
- Making building energy use a public record so that renters and buyers can more readily evaluate performance (House 1758 — lead sponsor)
- Promoting energy efficiency
- Promoting zero net energy buildings (Senate 1665)
- Creating efficiency programs for oil and propane customers (House 879 — supporting this, but not a listed cosponsor).
Additionally, I am co-sponsoring the following related bills:
- Renewable energy generation (House 887)
- Wind power siting reform (House 1759 and House 1755)
- Clean technology commission (House 132)
- The Bottle Bill (House 890)
- Reducing use of plastic bags (House 1990)
- To create old growth forest reserves (House 236 )
- Safer alternatives to chemicals (House 624)
For me, the deep question is: Are we intending to do enough on these issues? The current state plan is limited mostly to measures which are financially cost-effective. What is cost-effective depends heavily on one’s belief about energy prices and other uncertain factors. Have we adequately valued the reduction in vulnerability to energy price fluctuations? The risks of sharp turns in climate? The risks of additional conflict over oil resources?
Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone really knows the answers to these questions. What the analysis does make clear is that we can make lot more investment in clean energy and conservation before we push the envelope of uncertain value. So, accelerating that investment remains a high policy priority for me.
I am most interested in energy conservation because the returns seem clearest there. The ongoing nuclear tragedy in Japan highlights the wisdom of a strategy including aggressive conservation measures as contrasted with a strategy that merely shifts energy sources. Many believe that to meet business as usual levels of electricity demand without fossil fuel we would need to include more nuclear power plants.