Keeping Congress from Blocking Progress

President Obama joined 140 other world leaders last week at world climate talks aimed at shifting the global economy away from the dirty fossil fuels that are driving climate change and toward the cleaner, smarter energy options that can power our future while protecting our kids.

What's needed is nothing less than a total "transformation of the global economy," Secretary of State John Kerry added Wednesday, telling climate negotiators here in Paris that the race is on to structure the global markets that will finance $50 trillion in public and private energy investment over the next two decades.

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The United States, France, and 18 other countries have joined Bill Gates and 27 other billionaire investors to pledge a massive ramp-up in clean energy research and development. And the coming decade will see a total of at least $325 billion in clean energy investment from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and the Bank of America alone.

This isn't a trend: it's a revolution. It's the global economic play of our lifetime.

So why are Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate trying to take us in the opposite direction?

That's what's at stake with the senate poised to vote on whether to lift the longstanding ban on crude oil exports. That would be a mistake.

We don't need yet another government giveaway to Big Oil at the American people's expense. And we certainly don't need U.S. policy to promote fossil fuels just as the world is moving in the other direction.

American taxpayers already dole out some $4 billion a year in subsidies to the oil industry, while crude oil production puts our families, communities, and environment at risk of well blowouts, water contamination, exploding oil trains, and a long list of other hazards and harm.

Lifting the crude oil export ban -- a measure tacked onto a broader spending package -- would drive the industry to expose Americans the ever-widening peril of producing crude oil to be shipped to our competitors abroad.

That doesn't make sense, but it didn't stop the GOP-controlled House from voting earlier this fall to lift the ban, drawing a White House veto threat. If the Senate follows the lead of the House, President Obama should stand strong and not let Republicans get away with stepping on the gas on fossil fuel production when the real opportunity is with clean energy.

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Credit: Oil Change International

Republican President Gerald Ford put the crude oil exports ban in place in 1975, after the Arab oil embargo threw much of the country into a near state of panic over the security of national energy supplies.

At the time, the United States was importing 36 percent of its oil and 60 percent of our imports were coming from countries in the volatile Middle East and other members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Today, net imports account for 25 percent of our oil, and we get more from neighboring Canada than from OPEC nations.

The crude oil export ban, though, doesn't mean we don't ship petroleum abroad. The United States, in fact, is one of the largest petroleum exporters in the world. Rather than crude oil, though, we ship out diesel fuel and other refined products at the rate of 4.6 million barrels a day -- equal to 24 percent of U.S. consumption.

Now, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill are pushing to send even more U.S. oil overseas. Americans get the harm, our competitors get the fuel, our children pay the price forever worsening climate change, and Big Oil walks away with the profits.

Some energy policy.

Let's get serious.

Instead of promoting the fossil fuels of the past, and all the damage and danger they bring, Congress should be putting in place the policies that advance U.S. clean energy technology and position American workers for success in the global economic play of our lifetime.

That means investing in efficiency so we do more with less waste. It means building, in our own country, the best all-electric and hybrid cars anywhere. It means powering them with more electricity from the wind and sun. And it means rising to a leadership role in the transformation of the global economy.

That's what's best for our country. It's what the world has rallied around in Paris. Let's not throw progress in reverse in Washington.