By Frances Beinecke
This historic vote defied expectations. Back in January, few people believed that six months into a new session and a new administration--and in the midst of an economic meltdown--we could pass transformative clean energy legislation in the House.
Well we did it. And we did it because this is America's quickest path toward a cleaner, more prosperous future.
House leaders Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, and Ed Markey deserve a great deal of the credit for this success.
This was not an easy fight. The bill touched off regional differences and challenged Big Oil's and Big Coal's stranglehold on America's energy supply. Waxman, the chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, had to corral many opposing interests to create a bill that would get out of committee and survive the bumpy journey through the Senate and on to the White House.
The bill that made it past the House will help America begin to address the climate crisis. I hope that the bill will become stronger as it progresses along the legislative process, but as Waxman said at a recent press conference: all the essentials for fighting global warming are already in the bill. (Watch the video release NRDC produced on the significance of this bill.)
One of the keys to this bill's success was that Americans from all walks of life urged their lawmakers to back climate action. (Click here to learn about the cross-section of Americans who came to a DC rally in support of the bill on Wednesday.)
I saw it for myself. In the past year, I traveled the country to help build momentum for national climate legislation, and the people I talked to--from clean energy entrepreneurs in Cleveland to labor organizers in Chicago, from national security experts in Georgia to religious leaders in New York-- all believe that building a clean, sustainable energy future will unleashing enormous opportunities for Americans. I agree, and that is why I am thrilled that the House passed this bill.
But I also recognize that this is just the beginning. We need to improve this bill and get it through the Senate and on to the president's desk, and we need to do it before the international climate negotiations begin in December in Copenhagen.
The fight in the Senate will be challenging. But just as we defied expectations in the House, we can defy them in the Senate.
In the coming weeks, my NRDC and colleagues and I will be turning all our attention to this final push. The House's historic passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act just gave our efforts powerful momentum.