A picture of Senator Christopher A. Coons
Chris C.
Democrat DE

About Sen. Chris
  • Keystone XL Pipeline

    by Senator Christopher A. Coons

    Posted on 2015-01-26

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    COONS. Mr. President, I come to the floor this evening to speak about our ongoing debate about the Keystone XL Pipeline and the need for this debate to shift to a much larger conversation.

    Tonight, as we are continuing in what has been 1\1/2\ weeks of debate in our Senate about this single, foreign-owned pipeline, it is my hope that we will begin a larger, broader conversation about America's energy and climate needs.

    We have so far voted on amendments confirming that climate change is real, on the future of natural gas and oil exports, on energy efficiency provisions, on rules to ensure that we buy American, and on funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the oilspill fund.

    I, myself, have an amendment, No. 115, that I am hoping we will have a chance to take up, debate, vote on, and pass--one that recognizes that given that the Senate has acknowledged the reality of climate change, we must now move forward to take action to prepare to adapt to those changes--changes that have already begun.

    I come from the State of Delaware, the lowest mean-elevation State in America, where our Governor, Jack Markell, has led a community-driven process of preparing for adapting to the coming impact on our infrastructure--our public, private, State, local, and Federal infrastructure in Delaware.

    We have to recognize that our Federal Government will have financial liabilities to help State, local, and tribal governments prepare for the impacts of climate change on their infrastructure and to prepare for the impacts of climate change on our Federal infrastructure.

    My amendment, I hope, will be taken up, debated, and passed, but the larger point I want to make is this is just the beginning of the much larger debate we need to have about our Nation's energy and climate future.

    Energy has long been and will remain central to a strong, diverse, and vibrant economy for our Nation. Throughout our history, Americans have benefited greatly from abundant sources of energy at home. From coal to oil to natural gas, we have been blessed by natural resources that have powered our economy. But new challenges today require new approaches. As human-generated greenhouse gas pollution wreaks havoc on our global climate, we need to come together to create a cleaner and lower-carbon energy future.

    There is no single pathway to stop climate change or to deal with it, but there are a number of approaches we need to look at and that I hope we will consider taking.

    Tonight I wish to briefly mention four different areas where there were bipartisan bills in the last Congress--areas that I hope, in the spirit of comity and debate in the Senate, we could reconsider and make them part of this broader energy and climate debate.

    First, we could start by establishing and implementing a national quadrennial energy review which would ensure that every administration, current and future, takes a hard look at our Nation's energy landscape, the challenges that we face, and to build a blue print for how we will deal with these challenges and overcome them.

    Today we already conduct these kinds of quadrennial reviews for the Pentagon, for the State Department, and for the Department of Homeland Security. They allow us to take a big picture and strategic look at our policies, our challenges, and to chart a predictable, longer term path forward.

    It is time we did the same for our country's energy challenges. This administration is already at work doing this, but Congress needs to act to ensure that future administrations will continue this practice.

    Second, we can invest in clean and renewable energy and in energy efficiency technology so that we can out-innovate the rest of the world and lay the groundwork for job creation, not only for today but for tomorrow. We can do this through sustained, annual program funding and through smart and innovative financing models that lower the cost of clean energy, such as expanded master limited partnerships.

    Third, we can improve the way our national labs collaborate with the private sector so that the innovation pipeline that takes ideas from the lab to the market is smooth, efficient, and predictable so that today's discoveries are tomorrow's world-changing products.

    [[Page S489]] And, fourth, we can improve STEM education and skills training throughout America so that every day we are training tomorrow's future energy innovators.

    We can do this. We need to do these things.

    I will admit that at times it can seem quite daunting. But in this country we should have no doubt that if we focus our greatest minds on these challenges, there is no limit to what we can achieve. The bottom line to all this is that we don't have a choice. Pretending otherwise is an exercise in denial.

    We need to curb emissions from transportation. We need to reduce pollution from powerplants. We need to better finance clean energy solutions. We need to strengthen our infrastructure so we are more resilient in the face of coming climate challenges. We need to address the real challenges of energy and water demand. We need to improve our regulations so that we do more to protect and conserve our land. And we need to invest in research, development, and the demonstration of new and innovative technologies. Overall, we can and should institute smart and market-based regional and national policies that will lower carbon pollution and send businesses and households the signal that the future is in cleaner not in dirtier energy technology.

    We need to do all this and bring the rest of the world along as well because our national energy and climate challenges are not just ours, they are the world's, and we need to come together around the world to get this done. The administration's clean power plan rules and the recently announced accord with China are all great initial steps in this direction. It is my hope as we continue this debate that we will come together in the Senate to show we are willing to rise to these challenges as a nation as well.

    Mr. President, for me, all of this ultimately comes down to our obligations--yes, of course, to our Nation, to our constituents, to our home States, but particularly as parents to our children and to future generations. Every day when I get to return home from the train station after taking what is often a late-evening train from Washington to Delaware, I get to see my family, and it is my children who leave me most concerned about the question of whether I will be leaving them a safer and healthier world than we received.

    My daughter Maggie in particular is passionate about the environment and is concerned about whether what we do here is not just helping to create jobs today--although that is an important issue for us to turn to--but whether we are helping to preserve our world for tomorrow. Maggie helps keep me focused not just on this quarter, this month, this election, or this term, but on the next 50 years and on whether what we do here leaves to our children and their children a cleaner and a better and brighter future. That is what our focus should be--on the future, on what we are doing not just for today but for tomorrow and all the days after that.

    I hope when the debate about this one pipeline is over we will refocus our energies on the bigger picture and on the great and big challenges we face together. That is what we get elected to do, and that is what our time demands.


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