Bernie Sanders on the Green Movement: This Is ‘Our Moment’
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (WDCpix)
As a member of the two Senate committees on energy and the environment issues, and the chairman of the new Green Jobs and the New Economy Subcommittee, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is in a strong position to weigh in on the country’s green future. At a breakfast this morning with environmental reporters, he waxed optimistic about the prospects for a national energy transformation.
Calling this “our moment” to fix the country’s economic problems, Sanders shot down concerns about the feasibility of creating a green economy in a matter of years. “I would remind everybody, when sometimes we are a little depressed about the situation and how slow government works, I want you go back to 1941, go back to December 1941, when this country was attacked at Pearl Harbor and America had to respond and fight wars on two fronts, in Asia and Europe, had to completely retool its economy to a war economy. We did this in two years. Two years. So anybody who tells you we can’t retool this economy to combat the danger of global warming and move to sustainable energy, move to a new transportation system, I think they are missing the boat. It can be done.”
The opportunity to transform the economy, he explained, comes not only from the economic crisis, but also from the election of President Obama. “For many years now, we have been very slow to react,” he said. “And certainly under Bush, we had a president who was working hand-in-glove with big energy, was part of big energy, certainly did not understand the problem. But now that we have a new president who does understand the problem, that does not for one moment, not for one second suggest that we do not need a strong grassroots movement all over this country to support the president and to push the president to move in a right direction.”
He was less optimistic, however, about the prospects for bringing Republican senators on board. When asked by a reporter what he would do get “the Inhofes” [referring to Senate Environment Committee ranking member and climate change skeptic James Inhofe (R-Okla.)] of the Senate to join Democrats on climate legislation, he responded, “Well, that’s asking a lot. I don’t know whether we’re gonna bring Mr. Inhofe along.”
Another reporter asked about resistance from Sanders’ “fellow Democrats,” but the senator cut her off: “They’re not my fellow Democrats. I’m an independent.”
Sanders spoke as part of a release ceremony for a new report (PDF) from the German Aerospace Center (“the German equivalent of NASA”) on how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions 23 percent by 2020 and 85 percent by 2050 using existing technology (I’ll have more on the report later). These targets are much more ambitious than the goals set forth by Obama, who has called for a 14 percent reduction by 2020. But Sanders dismissed the notion that Obama’s plans were too timid.
“He has put tens of billions of dollars into efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Sanders said. “Pretty serious stuff. And I think — follow the money on this one.”
UPDATE: Here’s a video of Sanders’ speech, courtesy of Grist. In case you were wondering, I’m the young guy whose head occasionally pops onto the right side of your screen to snag a bite of scrambled eggs: