CERAWeek: Opening shots

U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass), a long-time member of Congress and stern critic of Big Oil, kicked off CERAWeek by telling a packed ballroom at the Westin Galleria Hotel that $147 oil, along with sub-prime mortgages and lax regulation of financial institutions, caused the current global recession.
Even though oil prices peaked at that one-day high last July and have since slumped by $100 a barrel, Markey said Washington D.C. policy makers are still feeling the ripple of high energy prices from their constituents. Legislators are bent on pushing though greenhouse gas legislation, promoting a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon dioxide emissions, and looking at ways to diversify away from imported oil wherever possible.
“We see this as an economic opportunity,” Markey said. “How do we look at this as a new sector where we can create new jobs? What is it that we can replace?”
Markey said energy efficiency efforts along with renewable energy, such as solar-produced electricity, could create an environmental sector with 2 million to 4 million new jobs in the U.S.
This will only happen “if we capture the opportunity which is there, but we have to decide it’s an area where we want to be the leader,” he said.
Markey has risen to new prominence since President Barack Obama took office last month. As the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, any piece of climate legislation will have to go through him.
Markey said the House Energy and Commerce Committee has set a target of Memorial Day for finalizing their plans. The hope is to send President Obama to the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December as a leader and with the ammunition to propel China and India and other developing nations to begin real dialogue about climate change.
“Finally, the U.S. is not in denial on the science but are we now the leader?” Markey asked. “The G8 and rest of world is waiting for the United States to stop being the laggard and start being the leader in terms of these issues.”