Martinez Says All Regions Must Share Climate Expense

WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2008 (ENS) – Mel Martinez says the time to act on climate change is now. The junior U.S. Senator from Florida said Sunday that he will support federal legislation that curbs carbon emissions, but the Orlando Republican says he wants to ensure the costs are fairly distributed.

Congress clearly recognizes the need to address carbon dioxide emissions that are raising the planetary temperature. Martinez says, “To date there are no fewer than 73 bills that would directly address climate change issues.”

“The expense of addressing climate change should be shared across all regions of America, not just some specific areas,” Martinez wrote in a special article in the “Orlando Sentinel” newspaper on Sunday.

Senator Mel Martinez (Photo courtesy
Office of the Senator)

“In the Southeast,” he said, “because of the types of power generation we depend on, climate-change legislation has the real potential to increase our power rates dramatically.”

The Southeast depends on fossil fuels and nuclear power for 94 percent of its electric power generation but most of the states have little or no fossil fuel resources, and no nuclear resources to tap into, leaving them dependent on other states and countries for fuel, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

More than 93 percent of the coal distributed in the region for electric power in 2005 had to be to imported from other states and countries, sending $7.3 billion out of the region.

“As former president of the Orlando Utilities Commission,” Martinez said he is sensitive to the impact that rate increases have on the most vulnerable.

“We have to be sensitive to the effects even modest increases have on those living on a fixed income, the elderly and lower-wage earners. In whatever action we take, we must ensure this population is protected,” the senator wrote.

A Cuban American and the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush in his first term, Martinez does not agree with the president that the climate can wait.

“On the question of climate change, I believe we need to take action now to reduce carbon emissions,” wrote Martinez. “The evidence is overwhelming that our climate is suffering a change due to the actions of mankind.”

“Common sense tells us that billions upon billions of tons of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere will have a negative effect. I believe we have a responsibility to examine the specific impacts, and to take action to minimize the carbon emissions we put into the atmosphere,” Martinez wrote.

Better alternative fuels that burn cleaner, wind and solar power, hybrid vehicles and “further development of nuclear energy to supplement our domestic energy demands,” is the mix Martinez would adopt.

The nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, UCS, says the Southeast, including Florida, would benefit from a national renewable energy standard because it would reduce the need to import coal and other fossil fuels, keeping energy dollars in the Southeast and boosting regional energy self-reliance.

The UCS’ most recent analysis found that under a 20 percent national renewable energy standard, annual payments to local Southeast landowners who produce bioenergy would reach $2.7 billion by 2020.

The House and the Senate separately have each passed different versions of a national renewable energy standard measure, but no law has been enacted.

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