Op-Eds

A Climate of Change: Greening America and the Economy Together

By Congressman Henry Cuellar

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Washington, April 22, 2008 | Yolanda C. Urrabazo ((202) 225-1640) | comments

On Tuesday, April 22, the country is celebrating the 38th Earth Day. While Earth Day brings focus to the key challenges facing us in preserving our planet, it is also an opportune time to explore the many ways to uplift our individual living costs by taking part in preservation efforts. Collectively, the minor, conscientious changes we make to minimize our carbon footprint will not only save us money, but will also keep our planet healthy and sustainable.
 
This Earth Day coincides with the recent waiving of critical environmental laws enacted to launch a speedy construction of the border fence. Bypassing a thorough review and consideration of the fence’s impact on the environment and on our community is unacceptable. Our southern region is rife with ecological systems, and more must be done preserve them for future generations.

I am pleased that more is being done at the local level to help our environment. Recently, I was proud to announce a $500,000 earmark to help fund Texas A&M International University’s Energy-Efficient Green Campus Research Initiative. TAMIU’s visionary leadership ought to serve as a model of progressive thinking to the 28th District of Texas for a variety of reasons.

The university’s ecologically-sensitive location compounded by a growing population demands a forward thinking approach to saving energy and money by building green. Scheduled for completion in 2010, TAMIU’s new Student Success Center will seek LEED® certification from the US Green Building Council and will facilitate future research on high-efficient building systems and renewable technologies. I envision construction companies, architects, homeowners, and more universities and businesses making energy efficiency a priority.

While this is a wide-scale initiative, you can also contribute to the cause on an individual basis by making a few small adjustments in your daily lives. It is both extremely cost-effective and eco-friendly to use water efficiently, insulate your home, or use Energy Star products. Energy Star bulbs, for example, last up to ten times longer than standard bulbs and use about 75 percent less energy, saving you at least $30 in electricity over each bulb’s lifetime.

Because the energy our homes use often comes from burning fossil fuels at power plants, which contribute to smog, acid rain, and global warming, “green remodeling” your home by seeking environmentally friendly sources of energy like wind or solar provided in your area is another excellent option to help the environment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the burning of fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change, but these emissions can be reduced by improving your car’s fuel efficiency while saving money and reducing the nation's dependence on oil. Leaving your car at home twice a week and carpooling, walking, biking or using public transportation can cut greenhouse gas emissions over 1,500 pounds per year.

Congress has spearheaded efforts to begin to address the global warming crisis and to spur a cleaner, greener, and more prosperous economy for the American people. This past December, Congress passed and the President signed into law the historic and bipartisan Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (H.R. 6).

The legislation will increase vehicle fuel efficiency standards and help save American families $700 to $1,000 per year at the gas pump. New building, appliance and lighting efficiency standards included in the new law will save consumers $400 billion through 2030. Additionally, the new law will help save 5.3 billion metric tons in energy-related CO2 emissions from 2008-2030 and cut the growth in energy-related emissions of CO2 by 10 percent. The new energy law is a critical first step in reducing global warming.

Clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency will reduce harmful emissions that contribute to global warming, bring skyrocketing energy costs back under control, create new, good-paying jobs and put America on the path toward economic growth and prosperity. We all can enjoy a healthy planet by engaging in simple changes that may seem minute, but when done collectively, have enormous impact on the preservation of our Earth.

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Congressman Henry Cuellar is a member of the House Homeland Security, Small Business, and Agriculture Committees in the 110th Congress; accessibility to constituents, education, health care, economic development and national security are his priorities. Congressman Cuellar is also a Senior Whip.

 

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