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Kerry: Good Policy Meets Good Politics

I still believe that good policy makes good politics — and passing legislation to end our country’s addiction to foreign oil and begin addressing global climate change is the best melding of politics and policy still available to this Congress in this election year.

Americans are ready for us to act — in fact, they’re tired of waiting. In the aftermath of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the worst environmental disaster in our history, nearly seven out of 10 Americans believe the Senate needs to act on comprehensive climate and energy legislation, according to new research by the Benenson Strategy Group.

The overwhelming majority of Americans want us to provide leadership that builds an energy independent America, creates a clean energy economy of job and investment opportunities, and — at last — holds polluters accountable.

The catastrophe in the Gulf is the most dramatic evidence of the ever-increasing need for comprehensive energy reforms. But it is by no means the only evidence in favor of action. Just after the Fourth of July, a 2.7-square-mile chunk of ice broke off the Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier, one of the largest in Greenland. And that occurred just days after our government determined that last month was the warmest June since 1880, when records started being kept. Moreover, the six months of 2010 were the second-warmest ever, suggesting that 2010 is now on course to be the warmest year on record.

The National Academy of Sciences further underscored the case for immediate and aggressive action to limit carbon emissions with a landmark report in mid-July examining the depth of the climate crisis. The academy reported that because carbon pollution remains in the atmosphere for long periods, the choices we make today will affect our climate not just over the next few decades but also in coming centuries.

The United States has only 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves, but we are responsible for 25 percent of the world’s oil consumption. “Drill, baby, drill” is not the answer. No, we face a starker but simpler choice — either we take control of our energy future or it will take even greater control of us than it already has.

If we choose to take control of our energy future, we will reinvent the way we use energy, put millions of Americans back to work and lead the world into a new economic era. We will end our addiction to foreign oil, save our country a billion dollars a day and enhance our national security. And we will begin to slow the ways in which carbon pollution is ravaging our planet. Or we can choose to do nothing — and just continue to talk about how important it is for America to be free of foreign oil and the dangerous entanglements that come with it. Powerful interests have spent millions of dollars and dozens of years to keep us talking and prevent us from acting. But they need to understand — killing a Senate bill is not success.

Every month that we wait, our competitors take another step forward. The Chinese aren’t waiting. They surpassed America’s investment in renewable energy thanks to a 50 percent increase in spending. The Germans aren’t waiting. They’ve created 280,000 clean energy jobs that are driving their economy forward.

We’ve talked enough long enough, we’ve stalled long enough — through eight presidencies and a war in the Middle East that is now the longest in our nation’s history. In 1970, we celebrated the first Earth Day, energizing citizens everywhere and prompting Democrats and Republicans to come together and, over the next 10 years, pass 28 major laws to protect our air, water, wetlands, endangered species and food supply.

If the Senate will act on climate change, I believe 2010 will someday be looked on in just the same way — as the year that we undertook the historic mission of changing the way we produce and use energy and, in the process, of saving our planet.

That is good policy. And, yes, that is good politics.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is the chief sponsor of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

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