Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D) has been a staunch supporter of the environment in Congress. He opposed opening up wildlife refuges including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling. His comments on the recent disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and his emphasis on moving away from fossil fuel and towards sustainable renewable energy are below.
The unfolding disaster of the sinking and leaking of a drilling platform off the Louisiana coast, together with the recent tragedies at coal mines in West Virginia, remind us of some of the high human, environmental and economic costs associated with the extraction of fossil fuels. These incidents are all the more troubling because the evidence is clear that we cannot drill or mine our way to long-term energy security.
Many workers have lost their lives and their families have lost loved ones and breadwinners. In the Gulf right now we have delicate ocean and coastal ecosystems at risk, as well as wildlife and fishery populations and the livelihoods of communities in several states. This accident may be the worst environmental disaster in recent years and brings into question the many claims about safety and advanced technology in the industry.
This is a disaster for all concerned and especially for the people of the Gulf Coast. It should also be a learning experience. I strongly support the hearings that are being organized in the Senate and the House, and I hope there will be further significant inquiries as the situation develops.
We need to adopt a comprehensive energy strategy that addresses the challenges of the 21st Century and does not simply rely on the energy sources of the past. We need to be more creative and in ways that strengthen our economy, our security and our environment. Our long-term energy security depends on promoting energy efficiency and supporting domestic sources of clean, renewable power such as biomass, solar, and wind energy. Instead of focusing so much on securing more fossil fuels, it is crucial that we address our dependence on oil, invest in renewable energy, and offer incentives for utility companies and others to use these clean, domestic forms of energy.
Of course, there have to be hearings. Politicians have to look like they are doing something and getting to the bottom of the problem. Whether Senate hearings will actually do that is anyone’s guess.
But the hearings are less the point than Sen. Leahy’s call for a comprehensive energy strategy that focuses more on renewable energy sources such as biomass, solar and wind energy. More and better technologies are being developed everyday. If more money were poured into getting renewable energy on line and in use, we wouldn’t be pushing so hard to open up new areas to potential environmental disasters like the oil rig explosion and the West Virginia mine disaster.
If the Japanese can build a solar space yacht why can’t we build renewable energy plants to provide our power here on earth.