Senator Amy Klobuchar: Keynote Address at the DOE Bioenergy 2015 conference

June 24, 2015 |

Amy_Klobuchar

I want to spend a moment looking at the badness in our energy policy, with a look back in history. Our first bad moment was after 9/11, we were united and the President could have said “we need a policy to reduce our reliance on these energies and the relationships and conditions that they have forced on us. Then, there was the moment we were one vote short on renewable energy standard. One vote!

Then, there was the hour when President Obama, took office in the worst downturn in recent times, when we were losing more jobs in one month as a country than we had people in Vermont. We knew we had the votes for a Renewable Power Standard from the summer before, but we went for cap and trade but it was not the right time. There has been some fuzzy thinking along the lines that “McCain was for it”, but we thought it was cute and popular but you would go back home and in the town meetings people would shout “no caps on trade”. It was a well thought-out policy but not well-thought out in politics of the moment, a Renewable Energy Standard would have been the best solution.

When I look at this point over the last decade, we have been governing from crisis, going back to 9/11 and the downturn. Meanwhile, important issues like immigration reform, energy policy, education policy have just been sitting there while we have had to deal with TARP and the stimulus and Dodd-Frank.

Now is the moment to govern from opportunity, and we know from the energy successes that we are having that where we sustained long term policies, those decisions are paying major dividends.

We are still left with challenges. What kind of world do we we want to leave to those coming after us, our children. Don’t we want them to be less dependent on the energy of the past? Yet, we are not as far as we should be, or as far as we are in my home state of Minnesota.

There is good news. The Pope is taking this on and is coming to Congress, and we are seeing more leadership coming forward on climate change, and you can sense the renewed belief in taking action, and setting goals.

Plus, people are starting to see how their neighbors are taking action, and seeing how they save money. Also, as we come out of the downturn, we become less susceptible to bad facts. John Oliver on his show a few months back looked at climate change and he brought on the show 2 people who claim that climate change does not exist, and there they were in their white lab coats, but then he brought on 97 who do believe, to show what it is really about in terms of the debate. And here and elsewhere you see this resurgence with young people.

And then, there is action too where you would not think it could happen. North Carolina has implemented a strong renewable power standard, and Mississippi adopted the most stringent energy conservation standard, on a par with Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts. Two states where you’d think nothing would be happening.

And we have the Farm Bill, we worked hard to maintain the entire energy title, all $800 million, and we got a good bill done.

But there’s a second reason to hope. The return of bipartisanship.

We have made our case with the facts and we have been getting some bipartisan victories in Congress, not the ones we want , but a good sing. The Shaheen Portman bill, for example on

residential, commercial and industrial energy use. We had a hot water heater amendment that was popular with rural co-ops and environmentalists, both! And, we were able to keep the bill going by threatening to pull this very popular amendment.

And, we have USDA and DOD working together under the Farm to Fleet agreement, and with the fleet we have this year the first deliveries to power our national security. We see efforts to expand bioenergy sector to address energy poverty, including the UN goal through Sustainable Energy 4 All of doubling the use of sustainable energy by 2030.

How do we build on this progress?

First, we don;t tear down good policies. We’ve had a major battle over the Renewable Fuel Standard and I felt really strong about that. When I go home and meet with voters, it has recently begun to remind me of back in the days of the “freedom to farm” rallies. People show up and are so mad that our own Administration would think about peeling that Standard back when we had come so far and the oil companies are doing so well.

We have had so many meetings, and we have pushed back on RFS, and finally the EPA released a long-delayed rule. It did reflect a slight improvement especially for biomass-based diesel, but falls well short of the goal. For the first time we have committed to decrease the amount of renewable fuel in the US.

So, more has to be done on that, but we have been successful in pushing back those who want to repeal the RFS. And we have been pushing back on issues of food vs fuel and engine damage and we are demonstrating to more and more people that we can have both a strong food and fuel effort.

In my home state we have the largest snowmobile manufacturer in the country, and let me assure you that what affects snowmobiles is having less snow.

So we can’t listen to the nattering nabobs of negativism. Things are changing. You are on the cusp.

You have been in the trenches, and time and again you have walked into the red light green light world of energy policy. But now, Lisa Cantwell and Lisa Murkowski are leading the energy committee, and we can be hopeful of doing better than creating one-year incentives.

We want to have an economy that is something more than a finance business, sloshing money around.

I come from the Iron Range country near the border. I can “see Canada from our porch”. It’s been a hardscrabble portion of the state, which made the iron that made the cars and helped us to win World War Two. At age 15 my grandfather’s parents died and he quit school and went to work in the mines to support 9 siblings. Every day he went down into the dark world of the mine, and he never complained, and I have wondered what he thought of as he watched the world above recede. He was a man who loved to walk in the woods, who liked to hunt, and pick blackberries and make jam.

I grew up with this early example of the tension between the environment and industry, he loved the outdoors and saw the environment and industry as things that could work together.

I know that what you can do, what you are doing, is putting people like my grandpa to work but protecting the environment. So, put your helmets on and your boots, and I promise you there are these little rays of hope, there is change on the way and you are doing good, so I want to thank you

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