Climate Change—(Continued)by Senator Christopher Murphy
Posted on 2014-03-10
MURPHY. Mr. President, I would like to offer my grateful thanks
to the Presiding Officer and Senator Schatz and Senator Boxer, who I
know was down here earlier. All of you are true heroes, as well as some
of our other colleagues who have manned the quiet hours of the
overnight. I know Senator
Heinrich and Senator Booker spent long hours on the floor arguing with
great voracity and passion about the cause that brings us here today. I
am humbled to pick up where many of my friends have left off and
thankful for the bringing of all of us here today.
In thinking about this event and thinking about how to frame this debate, I asked some of my friends in Connecticut how they were thinking about this issue of climate change. I received a number of different responses--one that maybe didn't actually stand out but was emblematic about the way my State of Connecticut thinks about climate change--a State that has most of its population right along the shoreline.
All of our economic assets essentially buffer the State from the rising coastal levels. Our State has now gone through--as the Presiding Officer's has--four record and once-in-a-lifetime storms in a period of a handful of years. This is a State that has been called to action.
A rabbi in the greater New Haven area wrote me a very simple note. He became an activist on the issue of climate change after Superstorm Sandy. Senator Booker was down here, and clearly his State was hit with the worst of it, but Connecticut was hit hard too. We were hit hard in a physical sense and economic sense, but we were also hit hard in a psychological sense. A lot of people who believed in climate change in Connecticut decided to stand up and do something about it when Sandy hit.
Rabbi Ratner remembers that night when Sandy hit. He said: The winds were so ferocious that my family feared our house would be torn apart by the trees on our property. My wife and I grabbed our three little children and we brought them into our room for safety. Throughout that long night we huddled together, blocking the windows and praying that we would make it through. The experience and the sense of paralysis and powerlessness reverberated with me and my family for a long time. As a parent, it is not something I am content to let happen again and again.
This rabbi has become an activist on the issue of climate. For him, it comes from this experience of that evening in Connecticut.
I don't live in the extreme coastal parts of Connecticut, but I remember that after the lights had gone out that night, the only connection I still had to what was happening along the coastline, as the worst of that storm came in--predicted to be at the level of historic tidal high tides along the Connecticut shoreline--was my smartphone. I was trying to keep up via Twitter as to what was happening in places such as Greenwich, Bridgeport, and Norwalk. What I started to see in the moments before I finally lost battery power was what appeared to be a coming apocalypse. Thanks to lucky coincidence, the worst-case scenario did not happen. In fact, in Connecticut the historic high tide and the worst of the surge did not actually hit at the same moment as predicted. Lives were spared, and the economic costs were only in the hundreds of millions of dollars rather than in the tens of billions of dollars.
But for Rabbi Ratner and thousands of others in Connecticut, this was the last straw. This was another once-in-a-lifetime storm happening once again and putting their families, their communities, and our economy at risk. What Rabbi Ratner talks about is this sense of paralysis he felt that night. There is a sense of powerlessness as you are huddled and holding your children in your home wondering if the walls will still stand up to yet another historic storm as a consequence of changing climate. And what the rabbi figured out is that he actually was not powerless. That night all he could do was really hunker down and hope they would survive, but the next morning he could go out and do something about it.
The problem is that moment is fleeting. There are only so many hours left before the trendlines that have developed--shown so well by Senator Whitehouse in chart after chart--are very hard to turn around. If I have some time later on, I will talk about some of the most insidious trendlines that come not from carbon dioxide emissions but from what we call fast-acting pollutants, such as methane, HFCs, and black carbon. Once they get into the air, it is very hard to turn back around.
You are kind of reminded about the parable of the boiling frog. If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump right out, but if you put him into a pot of cold water and you just gradually turn up the temperature, he will die because he won't recognize over the course of those minutes that the water is heating up to an intensity that he can't survive.
There are only a handful of moments when that frog can choose to jump out before the die is cast because his future is written and his death is guaranteed. That is the moment we are in. We can sort of sit back and say: Well, it does not seem half bad today. Now we have these storms that are bigger, and crops are vanishing, and species seem to be migrating, but, you know, the water around us is not boiling yet. We only have a matter of minutes for the frog to jump out before it is too late. We are in that period of time in which if we do not make some decisions, pollutants will be so locked into the atmosphere, and the trend lines will be heading so clearly in one way, that there is no way to turn around.
But this is the moment, as Rabbi Ratner shows, where we have power to do something. I do not want to overstate this analogy because there is no reason to equate anyone with the heroism of people like John Lewis and Eleanor Holmes Norton. But I went with them this past weekend down to Mississippi and Alabama to commemorate what is this year the 49th anniversary of the Selma march that resulted in Bloody Sunday, that eventually inspired LBJ to introduce the 1965 Civil Rights Act, what many people see as a fulcrum point in the civil rights movement.
Of course, the idea that had been perpetuated upon African Americans in the South was an idea that, one, it is not that bad. Yes, you have to go to separate facilities, and, yes, your schools are not the same as our schools, but we treat you really nice, and we still allow you to drink from the water fountain, just not our water fountain. We still allow you to go to schools, just not the same schools as we do. And there is the sense of powerlessness, that you really cannot do anything about it.
As we recreated this march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with Congressman Lewis, I got the chance to march next to one of the foot soldiers in the civil rights movement. Searese Crawford was not a figure that made any headlines, and Searese is not anybody that you will find if you Google her name in the civil rights movement. But Searese has a story to tell. She was there in Birmingham when the hoses mowed down hundreds of protesters and the dogs were let out to chew up the ankles and knees and legs of those who dared to confront the white power structure. She went to jail at 18 years old for 5 days, which has to be a harrowing affair, and then she marched on Washington at 19 years old, traveling all the way up here to be a part of that moment.
I asked her, I said: Searese, why did you do it? She kind of looked at me with a funny look on her face as if it was a silly question. She said: Well, who else was going to do it? I said: So all of your friends did it? She said: No, none of my other friends did it.
I said: Did you tell your parents? She said: No, I didn't tell my parents. I just did it because I knew it was the right thing to do.
She knew that the situation was not OK. She knew that she was not powerless, that she could do something about it. That is why I feel inspired tonight to be down here with all of the other Senators--not because I am trying to equate this small act of civil disobedience with those of the civil rights movement, but because this is an attempt, as the presiding officer has said over and over in his soliloquies on the Senate floor, to wake up to this issue and to the idea that what is happening today is real, that it is almost irreversible, and that we are not powerless to do something about it.
So I want to talk for just a little while this morning about my State of Connecticut, which as I mentioned is particularly impacted by climate change. I want to talk a little bit about that dual discussion, about how we recognize that this is a real problem, not [[Page S1448]] one that can be papered over by the oil companies and by the fossil fuel companies and by the Koch brothers and everyone else who would try to perpetuate this mythology across this country that we do not have to pay attention to the issue of climate change, not unlike the white power structure in the South perpetuated the mythology that African Americans really did not have to worry about the way in which they were being treated. Then I also wish to talk a little bit about the path forward and how hopeful it is.
I thought the presiding officer's comments were spot-on--in response to a very apt parable and story from Senator Booker--in which the presiding officer sort of challenged this idea that there is really any danger in lurching into all of the things necessary to fix the problem of climate change.
In fact, there is enormous opportunity, not just moral opportunity because we are doing the right thing. That is, of course, probably our first charge as Members of the most powerful legislative body in the world, but also there is enormous economic potential in the ability for this country to capture literally millions of jobs that some nation across the world is going to have as we try to combat climate change.
So let me first tell you about what climate change means to us in Connecticut. Here is an example of what it means to the Nation as well through the lens of one company in Connecticut, and that is Electric Boat. Electric Boat is a company that employs a lot of folks in both the presiding officer's State and my State. For those of you who do not know what Electric Boat does, they make submarines. They, along with a company in Virginia, make every single submarine that goes out across this world in order to protect the people of this country. There is maybe no more important defense asset to the United States today than the submarines which provide a multisystemic platform with which to protect this country. We do reconnaissance and surveillance off of them. We use them in times of war to launch attacks to defend our homeland, for charting the maneuvers and operation of other navies across the world.
The reality is that you cannot make submarines inland. It probably goes without saying, but you have to make submarines right next to the water because these suckers are big. When you finish making them, you have to deliver them right into the water. So we make them in Groton, CT. Since the inception the submarine building program in Groton, we have lost 100 feet of coastline in Groton at Electric Boat.
Now, 100 feet of coastline, that is a lot of coastline anywhere. But maybe you can manage that if you are in a residential area or in an area of marshland; maybe you can figure out ways to adjust. But when you have a multibillion dollar presence sitting right on the water, when you have literally hundreds of millions of dollars of machinery and equipment and training resources right on Long Island Sound, the loss of 100 feet of coastline jeopardizes the ability to make submarines.
With sea levels rising at 4 millimeters a year, it is not long before the entirety of our submarine building industry is compromised by rising sea levels. Every day, Electric Boat, a for-profit private company that protects this Nation, is thinking about ways to try to force the water back out of their facility so that they can continue to make boats that protect this country.
I know the presiding officer has talked already about the effect on local agriculture. People do not think about Connecticut as an ag State, but we are. We have already seen the impact of these changing climates on Connecticut. I will just give one example. Cranberry Hill Farm is a specialty crop producer in Ashford, CT. They produce heirloom vegetables. They produce heritage breeds of chickens. They produce a lot of firewood for the community, and they produce maple syrup.
The owner of Cranberry Hill Farm is adapting to managing a farm in a wildly unpredictable climate. In April of 2012, Connecticut faced a 90- degree heat wave for a week. We are used to heat waves in the Northeast, but we are certainly not used to the number of extended periods of high-level temperatures that we are having today as a result of climate change. So this heat wave caused the strawberry crop at Cranberry Hill to bloom early. Then, when the temperatures dropped back down to average-April levels, the strawberry crop did not survive. Strawberry crops cannot survive a 90-degree heat wave in April. They are not built for that. So Cranberry Hill Farm lost the entirety of their strawberry crop for that season.
I wish that was the exception to the rule. But that story can be repeated over and over across Connecticut. Farmers, especially small farmers in Connecticut, that is what we have. We have a lot of farmers. We have a growing number of farms, frankly. We have more and more people going into farming. But they farm pretty small plots of land, and they cannot be, with small acreage, terribly diversified. So when a farm like Cranberry Hill loses a strawberry crop, that jeopardizes their whole operation. There just is not the resiliency in New England farming because of the small size and limited scope that you may not have in other places.
But at least when it comes to something like strawberries or other specialty crops, they can hope that they are going to be able to do better next year. But for their maple syrup operations, which is a big deal in Connecticut and across the Northeast, the prospects are pretty seriously dire. As Connecticut summers get hotter and they got longer, what we are seeing is a receding sugar bush tree line. The sugar bush is a temperate tree and the hot summers are driving those trees farther northward. So with record-breaking heat waves hitting my State every single summer, Connecticut's maple syrup industry may not survive at all.
In Connecticut, that is a big deal. That is an industry that employs a lot of people. I just personally would panic if I did not have my Connecticut maple syrup. But what we have seen is that the hotter temperatures are moving industries further north. Senator King maybe told this story earlier tonight if he was on the floor. I have heard him tell it before. He talks about the temporary benefit that Maine has received because our Nation's lobsters are moving.
As the temperature of the water on the Atlantic coastline grows hotter and hotter, the lobsters are pretty quickly figuring that out. They are not as dumb as you may think. They are retreating north. So for the time being, Maine is having a bounty because they have all of Connecticut's lobsters. That, however, has been disastrous for States like ours. In places like Connecticut and Rhode Island, we have seen the wholesale evisceration of the fishing industry, especially those lobstermen in Connecticut who were once a defining feature of our landscape and of our economy.
They had to move or just shut down operations because the temperature of the water, in part, is forcing the lobsters to move to a different place. So whether it is maple syrup or strawberries or lobsters, Connecticut's maritime industry and our agricultural sector have already been fundamentally transformed.
Let's talk about two other things that really matter to us in Connecticut. I heard the presiding officer reference one of these subjects a little bit earlier. We have a pretty big tourist industry in Connecticut. One of the reasons for that is that over the course of the fall, we get hundreds of thousands of people, certainly at least tens of thousands of people, who drive through the beautiful stretches of northwestern Connecticut and eastern Connecticut in which the fall foliage just lights up New England like a Christmas tree.
Those tourists bring with them to Connecticut their wallets, their pocketbooks, and they deposit a little bit of money with us in what we colloquially will call leaf-peeping season. It is a big deal to our State.
Climate change is having today and will continue to have an effect on fall foliage. For a lot of people that sounds like maybe a small, minor consequence, that leaves in Connecticut will look a different color, but in Connecticut it is a big part of our fall industry.
Climate change is making our summers much hotter, making there be more 90-degree days and this, in turn, will affect these brilliant fall colors on the trees. Many of those trees will migrate north or die out, and the timing [[Page S1449]] of that transition from summer to fall fundamentally changes in a lot of ways. Many of these tree species which present the most vibrant colors may completely be gone.
Skiing is another industry that matters to us in Connecticut. We don't have the big mountains Vermont and New Hampshire and Maine have, and I know our friends out in the Midwest don't even accept what we have to offer in the northeast qualifies as big mountains, but in New England, of course, skiing is a very big deal and it is a major industry. We are having trouble, as we speak, keeping Connecticut slopes open.
We have had one, I guess it is a hill--not a mountain--that brings in millions of dollars to Connecticut's economy called Powder Ridge not far from my home in Cheshire, CT. It has been an off-and-on prospect with families and operators starting it up, stopping it, starting it up and stopping it, because they are on a year-to-year lifeline due to the fact that there is less snow and less people coming onto the slopes.
Estimates suggest that over the course of the next half a century, the skiing industry is likely to vanish in Connecticut.
This is a multimillion dollar industry in places such as Ski Sundown, Mohawk Mountain, and others that are in small towns in places such as northwestern Connecticut. Those small-town economies will essentially collapse if they don't have the central organizing principle of their winters, which are the ski mountain, the ski lodge, and the thousands of families who come from all over Connecticut and all over New England to ski there. Our ski industry in Connecticut already is in jeopardy, but it is going to get worse if we don't do something about it.
Maybe what is scariest, though, is what is happening with these storms along the coastline. I mentioned this a little bit in the story of the rabbi who sheltered his family, but we are not unlike most other States across the Atlantic in that we were initially, as a State, a maritime community, so we built up our State along our waterways. To us, that was essentially Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River. Today, if you track development, it has migrated outside of those corridors. It is still basically centralized along the Connecticut River, which now is not coincidental to Interstate 95 and the Long Island Sound which is not coincidental to both Interstate 95 and the Amtrak line.
What is most troubling is the fact that these storms attacking us with increasing ferocity and severity are no longer a nuisance. They present a catastrophic potential for Connecticut's entire economy.
I will give us one example of how close we came during Superstorm Sandy to an absolutely economy-ravaging disruption of our rail lines. The Amtrak line runs down Connecticut's coastline. If we take a little kayak down across the Long Island Sound--which I will do virtually every summer--there are long stretches of that kayak ride in which we can see the Amtrak line lying literally on top of the wetlands that shelter the land from the sea or within just a handful of yards. Now whether that was a smart decision, in retrospect, I can't tell you. But we built up our main rail line, which provides billions of dollars of economic benefit to the entirety of the Northeast corridor in Connecticut right on the shoreline. This is a line that obviously millions of Connecticut consumers use but connects Boston to New York and to Washington, DC. It is the vital life link between some of the biggest economic centers in the entire world.
When Superstorm Sandy hit, it completely obliterated a sand dune near Rocky Neck State Park that essentially took the bullet for a rail bridge that was just feet behind it. We were fortunate at this sort of point of exposure to have an enormous sand dune that was standing right next to the rail bridge. All of our ecologists and all of our disaster experts tell us that if that sand dune wasn't there, then that bridge would have been obliterated.
If you lose just a stretch of track, you can probably rebuild that in a handful of days or weeks. But if you lose a bridge along the Amtrak line, that is a disruption that will likely take you months to recover from. That is a disruption that will be, as I said, catastrophic to the entire northeastern corridor. If you lose the ability to move people by rail from New York to Boston, that kills thousands, tens of thousands, of jobs. If you can no longer take a train from Rhode Island to Washington, DC, that eliminates commerce. That kills jobs.
That sand dune is gone. So if there is another storm, then all that is left to protect the rest of Connecticut from that storm surge is that rail bridge, and it is likely to come down.
We are going to do the hard work of rebuilding that sand dune, but that is not the only place along the Connecticut shoreline in which the Amtrak line is in harm's way. As we talk on the floor about the rising sea level tides we have, it is just a matter of time before there is no sand dune that is big enough to withstand the storm surge that will hit the Amtrak line and knock it out of service potentially for weeks and for months.
Our beaches are part of our economy as well. The estimate with respect to Hammonasset Beach State Park--which is a beautiful beach that tens of thousands of Connecticut residents go to--but people from all across the country and all across the world flock to every year-- frankly, I am lucky enough to spend a good part of my summer down on the Connecticut shoreline. My family has had a little beach house in Old Lyme that I get to go to, which is essentially right next to the Hammonasset Beach State Park. I can't tell the number of license plates we see from Canada, Quebec, and Ontario, that are coming down to spend their summers on the Connecticut beaches. They rent a little house or they park their RV or they camp out on the campground surrounding both Rocky Neck State Park and Hammonasset Beach State Park. They spend thousands of dollars, each family, over the course of August or the several weeks that they come down in the local part of the economy. So much of that part of the State is built up over beach tourism that comes into Hammonasset Beach State Park and to Rocky Neck State Park.
The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection tells us that by the end of this century--and it could come faster if the worst-case scenarios come true--Hammonasset Beach State Park will be gone. It just won't exist any longer. The scope of the tides and the water will be such that our economy-driving, dollar-generating State park--which is a beautiful place to go and which brings joy to thousands of families-- will not exist any longer.
While I don't have the estimate for Rocky Neck, I know the geography and it would suggest to me that if Hammonasset is going to be gone by the end of this century, then Rocky Neck is probably not far behind.
The insurance industry is not located along our shorelines, but it employs thousands of people. We are the insurance State, Hartford, CT. We are the insurance capital of the world. If our friends on the Republican side of the aisle don't believe the scientists, then hopefully they may believe the market. Our Republican friends tell us that they take their cues from the private market. The private market is very quickly having to adjust to the reality of climate change because, as storm after storm hits the northeast and as storms ravage the gulf coast and more severe weather--often in the form of tornados-- hits the Midwest, it is the insurance companies that in most cases ride to the rescue. They ride to the rescue with billions of dollars that they have to pay out. The only way they adjust is by raising premiums on all the rest of us. Companies such as Travelers and The Hartford, some of the biggest property casualty insurers in the world, which are headquartered in Hartford, CT, will tell us their models are fundamentally changing because they know climate change to be a reality.
They aren't budgeting premiums in the future on the belief that these are just freak temporary occurrences. The biggest insurance companies in the country--indeed, in the world--are making economic decisions based upon their rock-solid belief that the 99 percent of climate scientists that are referred to on the floor are telling the truth. So rates are increasing. The exposure for Connecticut's insurance industry is expanding.
[[Page S1450]] I think about the expansion of flood plain zones. Today, about 11 percent of New York City is in a flood-risk zone. Within the next several decades, the estimates from the insurance industry are that 34 percent of New York City is going to be in flood-risk zones. If you are in one of these zones, you obviously pay a severe premium when it comes to your insurance cost. Now while maybe in some way, shape, or form I am glad that part of that money will migrate to Connecticut's insurance companies, it gets sucked out of millions of businesses all across this country. They are having to pay the insurance premiums because the insurance companies are planning on climate change.
The insurance companies are planning on this body doing absolutely nothing about it, resulting in billions of dollars more in premiums from small companies, big companies, mom-and-pop stores, and homeowners all across this country.
We are going to become a sicker State as well, and that comes with costs too. Lyme disease--named after a particularly beautiful part of the world, Lyme, CT, and Old Lyme, CT--absolutely ravages tens of thousands of people in Connecticut. If someone knows anyone with Lyme disease, they know how insidious a disease it is because it initially presents with systems that are a little hard to detect that are masked by other illnesses. It is still sometimes very troublesome and tricky to treat. Often antibiotic treatments will zap Lyme disease within the first couple of days or months, but there are people across the State of Connecticut with what we refer to as chronic Lyme disease and who don't respond to antibiotic treatment. It is life changing. It really is life changing and it forces many people to be bedridden, out of the workforce, and living fundamentally different lives than they had planned.
With warmer and wetter conditions in Connecticut, our epidemiologists and our disease scientists tell us we are going to see an increase in the deer tick. We are going to see, as we have already, an increase in the diagnosis of Lyme disease. And the mosquito-borne diseases, such as eastern equine encephalitis virus, along with Nile virus, which impacts people but also livestock--horses--and wild birds, are going to become more prevalent as well.
As you sort of figure out what the consequence of this is, the story just gets worse and worse. So as you have wetter and warmer conditions, as we have today, and the mosquitoes and the deer ticks start to infest, especially in our coastal areas, then you have to engage in mosquito-control measures, and that historically has involved draining or ditching wetlands, which has enormous environmental consequences for those areas. That further erodes a lot of our maritime industries that depend in part on those wetlands staying healthy and happy.
The other way you deal with mosquitoes is you spray aerially. After decades of bad history with pesticides and aerial spraying, we know how careful you have to be about that. The reality is that you are going to see a mist floating down on tens of thousands of homes and neighborhoods and kids as we try to stamp out the increasing numbers of mosquitoes that come to places such as Connecticut as climate change guarantees warmer and wetter climates.
So we lose jobs, we increase costs, we see entire industries evaporate from Connecticut, and we become a more expensive and a sicker place. But the folks I got to spend some time with this last weekend in places such as Selma and Jackson, and tiny little towns in the Mississippi Delta, such as Money and Ruleville, saw a better day. They saw the ability to change their circumstances.
On the other side of that fight an epic battle that, not unlike the fight we have here today, combined individual decisions people had to make to change their lives and the way they treated people, small testaments of courage by people such as Sarah C. Crawford, but it also involved a fight here in the Senate that eventually culminated in the Civil Rights Act. They recognized that the path to justice for African Americans didn't actually come with much pain at all, that the path to economic and racial justice for Blacks across this country lifted up everybody.
And if you talk to a lot of White Mississippians or White citizens of Alabama, they will tell you that they felt as if there was a psychological and mental weight lifted from them, and they saw the economies of their States improve.
I don't know all of the history, but many people suggest that in the years following World War II, Birmingham, AL, was poised to become the economic crossroads of the South, that it could have become an economic powerhouse rivaling cities of today such as Atlanta in the South, but it didn't because of the fact that racial injustice held it back. Once they figured out that was both a moral stain on that State and an economic stain, they changed their ways.
Again, not to overstate the comparison--it is just in my brain because I was there this last weekend--so goes the story for the fight against climate change in the sense that the pathway to addressing this issue runs through the creation of millions of jobs in this country as well as cleaner air to breathe and cleaner water to drink for all of our citizens and kids across the country. So if I could, I would like to run through a handful of examples of how this could matter to my State as well.
Connecticut has built a pretty serious and I think pretty impressive fuel cell industry. Fuel cells aren't renewable resources in the sense that they use a small amount of gas that mixes together with elements inside the fuel cell to produce what is essentially an ultra-clean source of energy. There is virtually no pollutant coming out of fuel cells, so there is almost no contribution to global warming from these fuel cells. They are changing the climate, but they are also creating a lot of jobs in Connecticut.
On December 20, 2013, Connecticut opened its first utility-scale fuel cell farm in Bridgeport, CT. It was manufactured and built by a company in Connecticut that employs hundreds of people--the world's biggest fuel cell company, Fuel Cell Energy. It is located on a former brownfield. It is the first powerplant like this of fuel cells in North America, and at 15 megawatts it is producing enough power to supply power to 15,000 homes. It is a serious facility, and it is creating hundreds of jobs in places such as Danbury and Torrington, CT.
The problem, though, is this fuel cell farm in Bridgeport, CT, is the exception rather than the rule. Fuel Cell Energy is selling most of its products in Asia. It is selling most of its products in Korea. Over the years the Korean Government has kind of figured out what the gig is, that its main seller of fuel cells is creating jobs in the United States while they are selling product into Korea. So Korea has essentially said to Fuel Cell Energy: Your time is up. We will continue to buy a handful of these fuel cells from you over the coming years, but by the end of this decade we want to produce all of those fuel cells in Korea, and we want you to transfer the technology and transfer the jobs to us.
Fuel Cell Energy doesn't have any choice in this matter because if Korea decides they do not want to buy from them, they will buy from somebody else. So they have to essentially do an agreement in which they transfer that technology and transfer those jobs. Those are hundreds of jobs today in Connecticut but potentially thousands of jobs in the future as we power up fuel cells all across the country.
The reason they are not selling fuel cells in this country is because we don't have a renewable energy strategy to really advantage those sources, which, admittedly, today costs a little bit more than purchasing energy from a grid powered by things such as coal and by oil. But when you weigh the jobs that can be created in the fuel cell industry against the slightly marginally higher cost of getting that energy from a fuel cell rather than getting that energy from a coal- fired powerplant or an oil-fired powerplant, there is a pretty darn good argument that you should invest in fuel cells.
So, to Connecticut, this is a matter of jobs, especially in the fuel cell industry.
Greenskies Renewable Energy is a company in Middletown, CT, and they design and install big solar arrays. They do not manufacture the equipment, but they design these big solar [[Page S1451]] arrays and they install them. It was started in 2008 by a former Peace Corps volunteer in Mali. The company doesn't charge customers any upfront costs for solar power. Instead, they typically sign customers to long-term contracts, and Greenskies purchases the solar energy they are producing on their buildings. Greenskies has installed over 70,000 solar panels across the country, and they have offset 15 million pounds of CO
In 2012 they got their biggest contract yet. They won a contract to build solar arrays on 27 Walmart stores in Massachusetts. That is a $30 million contract.
In 2013 they announced plans to build a 43-acre solar farm in East Lyme that is going to be 16,000 solar panels. That solar farm alone in East Lyme will be able to power 6,300 homes. That is pretty significant in terms of the amount of power it is going to be able to put on the grid, but it is also significant in terms of the number of jobs that will be created. Today Greenskies may be employing dozens of people, but they are going to be hiring hundreds and thousands of people as they install all of these solar arrays in Connecticut and Massachusetts and for clients all across the Northeast.
Another company playing in the solar space is a company called Apollo Solar. It is based in Bethel, CT. It is a small company. Today it only employs about 10 people. But they manufacture the electronic equipment that filters power from a solar cell and allows it to be stored in a battery. That is really the future, the idea that every individual home is going to be a small powerplant where you can put solar panels on your roof, then take the power that is being produced by the solar panel, store it in a battery, and then use it at the moment at which prices on the grid are the highest or, if you want, sell it back to the grid at the moment at which you can get the most return for this little stored amount of energy you have created by the solar panels on your roof.
Today, Apollo Solar has become a significant supplier for cell phone towers in the developing world, especially in Africa. Countries in Africa just don't have the electric grids we have, so if they want cell towers to be able to provide lifesaving cell coverage to their residents, then they have to essentially power these cell towers on an individual tower-by-tower basis. And if you don't do it with solar arrays, then you have to do it with diesel generators, which produce enormous amounts of black carbon. That makes the air very difficult to breathe, and it is also much more expensive.
Apollo Solar has produced this technology for cell towers. Right now it is being used in places such as Africa, but eventually this technology can be used in millions of homes all across Connecticut and all across the country, and that is going to fundamentally change the way in which we engage with the electric grid.
We think Apollo Solar is poised to become an industry leader on this issue. Today it is only a handful of people, but this is one example of thousands of companies all across Connecticut and all across this country that are poised to explode in growth if we do the smart thing and decide we are going to create a renewable energy market here in the United States.
It is important to say that neither Greenskies nor Apollo Solar is making those solar panels because much of that work is being done in other countries--countries that do have domestic markets for renewable energy, countries such as Germany and China. So despite the successes of companies that install these big solar arrays and successes of companies such as Apollo Solar that create the attendant technology attached to the solar panels, there is so much more we could do if we had that domestic market here.
The point is that we have an enormous opportunity to create millions of jobs in this country based on this technology. The imperative should be one surrounding the public health effects of climate, the imperative should be around the life-changing catastrophic consequences of rising sea levels, the added cost to our economy that comes with entire industries such as those in Connecticut--the maple syrup industry, the fall tourism industry, the skiing industry, and the lobster industry-- evaporating and disappearing before our eyes. That should be the imperative.
Being a country that has only 5 percent of the world's population but 25 percent of the world's pollution in carbon emissions, we more than any other nation in the world have to play a role in this global economic and environmental imperative. But beyond that, there are enormous job gains to come if we make the right decision.
Lastly, before I turn it back over to the Senator from Hawaii for some remarks--and I will stay on the floor because I would like to maybe talk a little about short-lived climate pollutants, if I have the time--New England is an example of a place that has figured out how to do this the right way. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative--we call it RGGI--is the first market-based regulatory program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a cooperative effort amongst Northeastern States to cap and reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector. It is essentially just a miniversion of legislation which we have debated here in Congress. We essentially set a cap for how much carbon we are going to produce in the northeast. We allow emitters of pollution to trade credits and decide for themselves what cost point-source polluters are willing to pay for the ability to send carbon dioxide into the air.
We have heard over and over the horror stories coming from our friends on the Republican side. As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives, when we debated the Waxman- Markey bill, we heard over and over that electricity prices were going to dramatically spike; and, yes, you are going to have the benefit to the environment from reducing carbon dioxide, but you are going to have catastrophic consequences for the economy because everybody is going to have to pay for it.
I guess I can understand how people would believe that if there wasn't any empirical evidence to test their theory. Luckily, New England has just that evidence. New England has tested this idea. Frankly, the whole world has tested this idea because we have reduced ozone-depleting pollutants based on a similar protocol. But in New England we have taken on this issue.
RGGI has been an unqualified success. Our carbon-reducing plan in New England has prevented the release of 2.3 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 435,000 cars off the road for a year. The program will offset 8.5 million megawatt hours of electricity generation and avoid the release of 8 million tons of CO
In addition to preventing the release of 2.3 million tons of CO
It is pretty simple calculus, but it works for us in New England. We have taken the equivalent of two coal-fired powerplants offline, and we have returned $1 billion in savings to rate payers. We have done something about the scourge of climate change that people have been talking about overnight and we have saved people a whole boat load of money.
I guess this is why the Presiding Officer and Senator Schatz decided to engage in this exceptional exercise, to come down to the floor of the Senate tonight because we just don't understand how people don't see this.
If this were really a fight as some people make it, between the quality of our air and the quality of our economy, then let's have at it. Let's come down and have that debate. But it is not, and [[Page S1452]] we have proved that in Connecticut. This isn't just guesswork. This isn't estimation. This isn't conjecture. In Connecticut we have proved we can make significant gains to reduce climate pollutants, create jobs, and save people money.
This is a triple whammy. We get a cleaner environment, become a global leader, create a whole bunch of jobs and save a whole bunch of people money. Why on earth wouldn't you do that? Unless this debate has been hijacked by the very small number of people today who make money off the status quo. I don't have the exact quote. I should have brought it down here. We probably shouldn't look to Machiavelli for political advice. He, before anybody else, painted for us a picture of the challenge presented to the reformer. The reformer's job, he said, is the toughest job in the world, because those who will benefit from the new order have trouble seeing it today, but those who will be harmed by the new order, those who exist in the status quo, see the peril in the most acute sense and fight the hardest to preserve it.
So, yes, there are people who face a perilous future, but they are a very small number of people, and they are people who run the old-line energy businesses which are clinging to the status quo today, who are flooding this debate with millions of dollars to try to affect it. But as even they will find, there are even bigger, brighter opportunities on the other side. I imagine even the Koch brothers are industrious enough and innovative enough to figure out how to make a whole mess of money off of the renewable energy economy. I argue they will make even more money.
So I thank Senator Schatz, Senator Boxer, and the Presiding Officer for leading this effort. I will stick around on the floor to engage in discussion, but this is a triple win: Combat climate change, create jobs, and save people money. It is time for the Senate and time for the Congress to wake up.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The senior Senator from Connecticut.