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I remember a hundred lovely lakes, and recall the fragrant breath of pine and fir and cedar and poplar trees. The trail has strung upon it, as upon a thread of silk, opalescent dawns and saffron sunsets. It has given me blessed release from care and worry and the troubled thinking of our modern day. It has been a return to the primitive and the peaceful. Whenever the pressure of our complex city life thins my blood and benumbs my brain, I seek relief in the trail; and when I hear the coyote wailing to the yellow dawn, my cares fall from me - I am happy.

~Hamlin Garland
McClure's, February 1899
Leadership Long Delayed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Marjorie Holt   
Thursday, May 28 2009

May 23, 2009
Editorial

Leadership Long Delayed

For anyone eager to see the United States take a serious leadership role on the issue of global warming, this week was enormously encouraging.

It began with the White House’s announcement that it will impose the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. It ended with a House committee approving a comprehensive energy and global warming bill — an important first step on legislation that seeks to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, reverse emissions of carbon dioxide and create millions of clean energy jobs.

In fairly short order, President Obama and a Democratically controlled Congress have made the lassitude and indifference of the Bush years seem like ancient history. And they have greatly improved the prospects that American negotiators will arrive at the next round of global climate negotiations in Copenhagen with a credible strategy in hand and with the leverage to encourage other major emitters like China to get cracking.

The trick now will be to sustain the momentum — at home and internationally.

The legislation approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee must survive scrutiny by other committees and, of course, the whole House. Even after the strong endorsement of expert scientists, only one of the committee’s Republicans — Mary Bono Mack of California — voted for the bill. And then comes the Senate, where 60 votes are required to overcome a filibuster and where a climate change bill crashed to defeat last year.

The House bill’s main architect, Representative Henry Waxman of California, and his chief lieutenant, Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, have politically tailored this bill to do better.

It calls for a 17 percent reduction in 2005 levels of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 — and 83 percent by 2050. It would put a price on carbon through a cap-and-trade system that would impose a steadily declining ceiling on emissions while allowing polluters to trade permits, or allowances, to give them more flexibility in meeting their targets. It also mandates greater use of renewable power sources like wind and solar, sets tough new efficiency standards for buildings and invests in cleaner energy technologies, largely through the sale of carbon allowances.

To placate politicians from industrial states that rely heavily on coal, and whose energy costs are likely to rise, the bill includes a variety of mechanisms to help industries make the near-term transition to cleaner and more efficient ways of creating energy. The most prominent of these are “ offsets” that would allow polluters to satisfy their own emissions-reduction obligations by investing in carbon-reducing programs elsewhere, like preventing deforestation.

Critics says these and other provisions are too generous to polluters, and in truth the bill is not as strong as it should be. But anything more might well fail, as other bills have failed, and then the country would be back to Square 1. As it is, the bill represents an ambitious first step toward a solution too long delayed for a problem too long denied.

 

 
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