The Senate's Clean Energy and Climate Bill: The Right Step at the Right Time

Senators Boxer and Kerry have just released a strong bill that will help America curb climate change and strengthen our economy.

The bill, called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, is the right step at the right time.

It will help us revive the economy and create jobs when we need them most. It will help us reduce carbon emissions before it's too late to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. And it will put American in a position of strength and leadership heading into the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

The bill is long and complex, and it will take a few days to digest all of its components, but I know already that it gets two critical pieces right: targets and jobs.

The bill sets the target of 20 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. This is a strong achievable goal--stronger than the targets in the bill passed by the House in June.

In a piece in Politico, Senator Kerry explained that these targets will drive what he called a "market-based pollution reduction and investment system" that is based on the highly successful--and bipartisan--program for reducing acid rain.

It is the investment aspect of the bill that will drive job creation. Refashioning our energy system into something cleaner and more sustainable will put Americans to work. We will need carpenters to make our buildings more efficient, automakers to build cleaner cars, steelworkers to assemble wind turbines, and engineers to design the next generation of cost-effective hybrid batteries and solar panels.

According to a new report from UC Berkeley, comprehensive energy legislation with strong efficiency measures can create as many as 1.9 millions jobs between 2010 and 2020.

The release of this bill is just the beginning of a long process. Other senators will weigh in on the draft. And make no mistake, so will the lobbyists for Big Coal and Big Oil.

The industries that benefit from keeping America tied to dirty 19th century energy technologies will fight this effort to create a cleaner, more innovative future.

But I remain optimistic that the calls for clean energy and climate solutions across the country will lead to action. I have heard these calls myself from union members in Indiana to religious leaders in Washington, security hawks in Georgia, and business leaders in Ohio.

The majority of Americans support clean energy and climate legislation. Now we must let our senators know that we expect them to pass the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.