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VIEWPOINT: U.S. must act first on energy bill

WASHINGTON -- This week, the world is watching as leaders from around the globe gather in Copenhagen to discuss the issue of climate change. Their goal is to work toward an agreement on how to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming.

WASHINGTON -- This week, the world is watching as leaders from around the globe gather in Copenhagen to discuss the issue of climate change. Their goal is to work toward an agreement on how to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming.

Back here in the United States, many people are pushing Congress to take up legislation that would create a "cap-and-trade" system to reduce carbon emissions.

But I have significant concerns about a cap-and-trade program.

I want to find ways to protect our environment, and I support reducing carbon. But it makes no sense to me to hand Wall Street a new trillion-dollar carbon securities market so it can engage in the kind of speculation that steered our economy into the ditch. When these speculators are done trading, they will tell us how much we will pay for our energy. That's not something I support.

If and when Congress takes up a cap-and-trade proposal, it will be a long and difficult debate. Fortunately, there is another route we could take now that would involve bipartisanship, help North Dakota's energy industry grow, promote energy independence and take real steps to reduce carbon emissions.

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Those of us on the Senate Energy Committee have already written a strong bipartisan energy bill, the American Clean Energy Leadership Act. It takes a big step in moving our nation toward a clean energy economy and increasing national security. Our bill had a thorough debate and passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with strong bipartisan support. It is also a real and major step in the direction of addressing climate change.

Passing the American Clean Energy Leadership Act would demonstrate our success in building a clean energy future to the American public and the world in a number of ways.

n Maximizing the production of renewable energy with a federal Renewable Electricity Standard of 15 percent, which will spearhead investments in clean energy.

n Promoting Energy Efficiency with stronger standards and codes for appliances, buildings and industry.

n Constructing interstate electricity transmission lines that will allow more energy to be produced in energy-rich states like North Dakota and shipped to the load centers where it is needed.

n Increasing the responsible production of traditional energy sources by opening new areas for oil and gas production in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and increasing incentives for the Alaska Natural Gas pipeline.

n Boosting development of clean coal and carbon capture and storage technology that will allow us to use our coal and fossil resources in cleaner, more efficient ways.

The Renewable Electricity Standard alone will maximize the production of renewable energy from wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. In order to get significant amounts of new renewable energy on the grid, the bill also creates a regulatory structure that will help build an interstate highway of transmission to move the renewable energy from areas where it can be produced to the load centers where it is needed.

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All of these provisions will go a long way to decrease our dependence on foreign oil (we import 70 percent of our oil from other countries), increase our national security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And it is good energy policy for North Dakota.

Passage of this energy legislation will send a very strong signal to the world that we are serious about addressing climate change. Waiting to tie these critical energy provisions to climate change legislation will only delay our progress. I will continue to push to pass this energy legislation in the days ahead.

Dorgan, a Democrat, represents North Dakota in the U.S Senate.

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