Feinstein Announces Measures to Address Climate Change

Between President George Bush's announcement of the US' "oil addiction" in his January State of the Union address, and former Vice President Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, American politicians have had a tough time this year ignoring the issue of climate change. While the American public is increasingly prodding the government to take steps to address the US' huge contribution to worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, little has come out of the White House or the Congress that anyone would label "bold" or "visionary." Last Thursday, California Senator Diane Feinstein spoke on global warming at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, and introduced several measures that she has introduced, or plans to introduce, for consideration in the Senate. Among her proposals:

  • A sound mandatory cap and trade program, which could reduce emissions by 10 percent or more by 2025;

  • A mandatory requirement that all passenger vehicles – cars, SUVs and light trucks – have increased mileage of 10 percent within the next 10 years. That means mileage would go from 25 miles per gallon today to 35 miles per gallon by model year 2017.

  • A national energy efficiency program -- modeled after what California has achieved, including strict appliance and building standards and requiring utilities to use energy efficiency measures to meet a portion of their demand.

While we could argue whether Feinstein's proposals merit labels like "bold" or "visionary," she demonstrated in her speech that she has a grasp of the complexity of the problem. She addressed a wide range of topics, from farming practices to green building to alternative fuels, and took note of successes in both her home state of California and across the Atlantic in Great Britain. Some might argue that her mention of this summer's heat wave in the Golden State oversimplified the relationship of climate change to specific weather events, but Feinstein does recognize that reining in American emissions will require a multifaceted approach by both the public and private sectors to make American citizens and businesses use energy much more efficiently.

Perhaps we don't need bold -- sensible would be a start. Let's hope that Senator Feinstein's proposals receive thoughtful consideration and debate as Americans grapple with their wasteful ways at the individual and national levels. Thanks to reader Kimberle Nogay for the "heads up." ::San Francisco Chronicle