President Theodore Roosevelt told Congress in 1907, "The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life." That message still rings true today. Throughout my career in the House of Representatives, I have continually posted one of the most pro-environmental voting records in Congress. I will always fight for the future of our environment. The health, safety, and well-being of America's children are depending on it.
As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Everglades Caucus, I continue to lead efforts in Congress to secure federal funding for the implementation of the historic Everglades restoration effort. Every dollar invested in the Everglades will return four dollars back to our community, and the master restoration plan is projected to create jobs for more than 442,000 individuals over the next 50 years. The Everglades are also the source for much of South Florida’s drinking water. We have a responsibility to the Everglades, to ourselves and to our children to ensure restoration continues.
More than 70 percent of African Americans and Latinos, compared to only 58 percent of non-minority individuals, live in counties that regularly fail to meet current clean air standards. In these areas, a disproportionate number of citizens are suffering from cancer, asthma, toxin poisoning and other ailments related to the environment. I will continue to fight to ensure minority communities do not unfairly carry a disproportionate share of this country’s environmental burden.
No country is immune to climate change, and no country can tackle the challenges posed by climate change alone. As a leader in the international community, the United States must lead the way on how the world should respond to the growing threat posed by climate change. This threat is of particular concern to Floridians. Increasingly frequent and more powerful hurricanes greatly harm our communities, costing billions of dollars and, tragically, taking lives that can never be replaced. As climate change melts glaciers, we can expect a rise in sea level, a phenomenon occurring in many parts of the world. A rise in sea level of a few feet – possible by the end of this century – would devastate our coastal communities and the Everglades, and with over 1,800 miles of coastline, Florida is heavily dependent on the health and stability of the marine ecology.
A 21st century energy policy is critical to a strong America. To make that plan a reality, we must end our dependence on fossil fuels. As a member of the House Caucus on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, I will support legislation that reduces our country’s reliance on fossil fuels and encourages the use of clean, sustainable energy sources, like wind, hydroelectric, biomass, and solar energies. I will challenge counter-productive energy policies that harm our environment and subsidize our current dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.
The transformation to renewable energy sources will help revive the economy and spur job creation. The U.S. is falling behind the world in developing these still-nascent technologies, and consequently missing many opportunities. In fact, much of the green technology that we do use is already manufactured overseas. We need to aggressively secure our position as a valuable, capable manufacturer and producer of green energy technology before we are left out of the market completely. Currently only 8 percent of our energy comes from renewable resources while China has installed more wind turbines in 2010 than the United States, European Union and India combined. There is no doubt that change is coming; America needs to be at the forefront of this energy revolution.
An overhaul of our country’s energy policy cannot consist of only production incentives. In the energy debates occurring in previous Congresses, I have called for corporate responsibility of industries that produce products that are highly dependent on oil and gas. I have also introduced legislation to end tax benefits for cleaning up oil spills, a move that would save our country over a billion dollars per year.
A sound energy policy must be multifaceted and include measures that incentivize end-user adoption of energy-conserving practices. To help individual Americans do their part, I co-sponsored legislation to help property owners retrofit their property with energy-conservation technology. To have a 21st century energy policy, we must possess efficient consumer practices as well.
We must also remember how clearly the BP oil spill demonstrates the follies of continuing an energy policy that includes drilling for oil and gas off our country’s shores. The future of America depends on a smart, responsive energy policy and I am committed to achieving just that.