Introducing Greg Haegele Of The Sierra Club:- "Flip The Switch"

Greg Haegele, pictured here, is the Conservation Director of the Sierra Club. At 116 years old, the Club is America's oldest, largest and one of the most influential grassroots environmental organizations, with 1.3 million members and supporters.

Greg will post weekly on Treehugger about what moves him, scares him, and gives him hope - covering the good, the bad and the ugly from the environmental world.

He aims to offer a fresh perspective using his extensive background as an environmental and political activist, and as an organizer and campaign manager, to inform, outrage, and even inspire occasionally.

We here at Treehugger are happy to have Greg and the Sierra Club aboard for these guests posts. Please see Greg's first effort below.As December approaches, many people are out shopping or stringing up holiday decorations around the house. What you may not know as you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, though, is that House and Senate negotiations on the energy bill have gotten serious last week, with a goal of moving a bill in the House as early as Wednesday. As the House and Senate strive to craft a consensus bill that will have sufficient support to pass in both chambers, everything is on the table.

It's about time, too, considering the bill has had Congress dissecting and patching together good and bad deals since the summer. Meanwhile the rest of the country dealt with--and continues to deal with--high gas and energy prices (then for air conditioning and now for heating). As we watched the energy bills wind slowly through the House and Senate, I know I've had restless nights spent hoping that millions more dollars in subsidies for the nuclear and coal industries wouldn't be slipped in there. And then watching the various representatives and senators switch back and forth between yea and nay depending on which sections were added and which were removed, it was enough to drive most folks crazy, I suppose. There's a lot at stake here.

Now, months later, 'tis the season for a great gift to the entire country in the form of final energy legislation uniting the best of the bills passed by the House and Senate this past summer: A national fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020 and a national renewable electricity standard (RES) of 15% by 2020. I'm not sure now how you'd wrap a present like that, but I'll take it unwrapped any day.

While this summer's Senate bill included increases in fuel economy--the first increase in more than 30 years--the House version's RES requires that 15% of our electricity come from renewable sources like wind, solar and biomass by the year 2020.

What use do you have for this gift? Well the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that the Senate’s fuel economy provision would save consumers $25 billion at the pump by 2020. UCS said the provision also has the potential to create 22,000 jobs in the auto industry alone, and 178,000 new jobs total. And by using less oil every day, America becomes more energy independent.

The House's RES provision? It also creates tens of thousands of new jobs. States like Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Iowa that have passed their own Renewable Energy Standards are already seeing hundreds—even thousands—of new jobs created as a result. By relying more on renewables and less on fossil fuels, a national RES will also help consumers and businesses save billions on their energy bills, not to mention how much it will help fight global warming.

This is all better than a lump of coal, that's for sure. A dirty, excessive-carbon producing, lump of coal.

So we've got a few days left to ask Congress to give us the best energy gift this season--especially as we all start fainting at the sight of our first heating bills of the winter. We here at the Sierra Club call approval of those two major parts of the energy bill "flipping the switch." It's about time we 'flip the switch' and push for a clean energy future for the U.S.--one that will help the country become energy independent as well.

To learn more about Sierra Club's Flip the Switch Campaign, look here.

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