WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor in advance of a vote on the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
*As Prepared for Delivery*
“Mr. President, I oppose this legislation to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This is one more step in the wrong direction, one more capitulation to our fossil fuel habit, and one more accelerant for the global warming that threatens our children’s future.
“We have known that burning fossil fuels is bad for our air and water for well over 50 years. When we passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, and again when we strengthened it in 1990, we did so largely because of the harmful impacts of fossil fuels, because of the air pollution coming from burning fossil fuels in our power plants, our homes, our industrial facilities, and our vehicles. In those years, when we faced the clear evidence of widespread air pollution, we took strong actions. I remind you that those bills passed with bipartisan majorities of over 89 percent here in the Senate.
“We have known for over 30 years that burning fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. We have known for 20 years that those increases are likely to cause global warming and climate change. And for the last 10 years, we have had solid, overwhelming, incontrovertible evidence that the earth – both the continents and the oceans – is indeed warming. According to NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, 9 out of the earth’s 10 warmest years on record since 1880 have occurred in just the past 13 years, and 2014, is on track to become the warmest year of all since 1880.
“And in the face of this all of this evidence, what are we doing? We frequently find ourselves seeking to open new fossil fuel resources – or to expand production – and if that isn’t enough we are going to do it by increasing production from a notoriously dirty source, the tar sands of Canada.
“Mr. President, decreasing our use of fossil fuels is a monumental task. I recognize the very extensive role that energy resources, including fossil fuels, play in our lives – from easing my travel here this morning, to providing the lighting and heating and electronic services we’re using in this Senate chamber here and now, to enabling the construction of our cities and highways. But that is where we should be focusing on our energies – on reducing not increasing this reliance.
“But reducing fossil fuel dependence also creates a huge opportunity – and unlike building the pipeline it also offers major opportunities for creating new jobs. Proponents of the pipeline like to talk about the jobs it will create – and it will create a few jobs for a few years. But if instead of building the Keystone pipeline we committed to retrofit our buildings sector at an accelerated pace – to weatherizing our homes, our offices, and our schools and institutional buildings we would generate more and better jobs while also realizing low cost ways to actually reduce emissions.
“One study found that retrofitting residential and commercial buildings had the potential to reduce consumer demand by 30 percent by 2020 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.1 gigatons each year – at a savings of $680 billion. A second study found that retrofits could save $1 trillion in energy spending over 10 years and reduce CO2 emissions by 600 million metric tons each year – that is fully ten percent of our emissions.
“And what would retrofitting do for jobs? According to the Rockefeller Foundation it could create 3.3 million new jobs. Far more than construction of one pipeline could ever hope to generate and jobs that would last more than a couple of years.
“We already know how investments in renewable energy pay off. Up until about 10 years ago, Iowa produced essentially no energy. All of the energy used in Iowa -- for farming, for heating and air conditioning and lighting our buildings, and for transportation – came from outside the state. Today, Iowa gets over 25 percent of its electricity from wind. Iowa offers a similar success story when it comes to transportation fuels. Because of our 12 biodiesel plants and our 42 ethanol biorefineries, Iowa now exports about as much liquid fuel as it consumes. And both the wind production and biobased industries have meant good jobs for the people of my state – jobs that will be around longer than it takes to lay some pipe.
“Mr. President, the Keystone XL pipeline is one more shortsighted effort to increase our reliance on fossil fuels. It is a sad excuse of a jobs project – particularly when we know the way to create more and better jobs while simultaneously reducing emissions and saving money. I call on my colleagues to join me in opposing this Keystone XL pipeline bill.”