Keep the greenhouse gas blowout preventer - Lose the "Dirty Air Act"

The oil that continues to gush from seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico is a grim reminder of what our addiction to oil is costing us. Lost jobs in the fishing industry, lost protection of coastal marshes and the wildlife they harbor, and a lost way of life for thousands of Americans along the Gulf coast all result from the dogged pursuit of a fuel source that pollutes our coasts, and our communities, our water, and our air.

Some in Congress feel that this fossil fuel addiction is not only acceptable, but should be promoted and accelerated. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) is scheduled to force a vote in the Senate that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases, like those from the burning of oil and oil products. Some estimates show that this resolution could increase domestic oil consumption by hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. This is like offering a carton of Marlboros to patient suffering from lung disease.

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently the only “blowout preventer” we have for greenhouse gas pollution. Without it, there would be nothing preventing tons of carbon pollution from entering our atmosphere, worsening the changing climate that is leaving permanent scars across our forests, beaches, and communities.

However, as we have seen in the Gulf, blowout preventers aren’t the only solution. That is why it is critical that in addition to stopping Murkowski’s resolution, the Senate needs to take up and vote on a comprehensive climate and energy bill. By addressing climate change now we can restore our environment, save money and create jobs in the process.

Our treasured places are already feeling the effects of a warming world. Glacier National Park has already lost a third of its iconic glaciers. The Everglades are already subject to sea-level rise from the warming ocean. Our public lands deserve better. Tragic tales like this will become more and more common as climate change gets worse.

The Senate must act immediately. First, it must vote down Sen. Murkowski’s “Dirty Air Act”. Second, it must pass a comprehensive climate and energy bill that decreases the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere. We can create jobs, improve the health of air and water, and lead the world in clean, green energy by passing a climate bill. We can do it by looking forward toward clean energy, not backwards towards oil.

The disaster in the Gulf has shown that our country desperately needs a better energy path – it’s time to wean ourselves off dirty fuels, not increase our dependence on them.

This piece was originally published in the Huffington Post