Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: CO-Senate

Michael Bennet was little known when he was appointed by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to succeed Ken Salazar, who had been named Interior Secretary. Bennet entered public service in 2005, first as Chief of Staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper and then as Denver Schools Superintendent.  In his short time in the Senate, though, he has proven to be an environmental champion. This November, Bennet will be challenged by Weld County District Attorney, Republican Ken Buck.

During his first term in the Senate, Michael Bennet has supported environmental protection and efforts to transition to clean, sustainable energy. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Bennet a perfect, 100% rating for 2009. The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and LCV have endorsed Bennet’s re-election bid. In a statement on its endorsement, LCV Senior Vice President Tony Massaro said, “We are proud to endorse Senator Bennet for election because he is working to ensure that America – and more importantly Colorado – leads in the creation of the 21st century’s new clean energy economy.”

Bennet has been particularly strong on clean energy issues. Shortly after taking office he supported the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which made unprecedented investments in a clean energy and green infrastructure, and directed more than $7 billion to Colorado. He voted against an effort led by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating major carbon polluters under the Clean Air Act. And, he has remained a steadfast supporter of passing clean energy and climate legislation. When Senate leadership decided not to move ahead with such legislation this Congress, Bennet said in a statement, “We simply can’t afford to let the opportunity to create new clean energy jobs and break our reliance on foreign fossil fuels slip away. “ In the same statement, Bennet promised that, “while Washington can’t seem to get its act together, I’m going to keep up the fight to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill that moves Colorado and the country forward.”

Ken Buck could not be further from Bennet in his positions on energy and environmental issues. On his campaign website, Buck labels climate legislation a “looming disaster,” and an “economic suicide mission,” and calls for “aggressively expand[ing] energy production in our country, including stepping up drilling and looking to nuclear power as one of our best sources for non-carbon energy.” The fact is, however, that climate legislation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which passed the House in 2009, would create economic opportunities and jobs for Colorado and nationwide. According to researchers at the University of Illinois, Yale University and University of Colorado, climate legislation has the potential to create 1.9 million jobs nationally and more than 30,000 in Colorado alone. Furthermore, the Department of Agriculture looked at ACES and found that it will create “annual net returns to farmers rang[ing] from $1 billion per year in 2015-20 to almost $15-20 billion in 2040-50” — returns that would certainly benefit Colorado’s rural communities.

Buck even challenges the science of global warming saying, “I am one of those people that Al Gore refers to as a skeptic.” He explains, “While I think the earth is warming, I don’t think that man-made causes are the primary factor.” Leading scientists at the National Academy of Sciences would take exception, having recently completed the most comprehensive review of climate science ever and finding, “Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for—and in many cases is already affecting—a broad range of human and natural systems.”

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.

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