Former Vice President Al Gore and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were facing off Friday before lawmakers, each on opposite sides of a major climate and energy bill.
Both were testifying on the fourth and final day of a hearing before the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.
First to testify, Gore described the bill as “one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress.”
“I believe this legislation has the moral significance equivalent to that of the civil rights legislation of the 1960s and the Marshall Plan of the late 1940s,” he said in his opening statement.
Gore said the legislation would simultaneously solve the problems of the climate, economy and national security.
It calls for a reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by mid-century. It also would require utilities to produce a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.
He predicted passing it would “restore America’s leadership in the world and begin, at long last, to solve the climate crisis.”
Gore also listed examples of what rising temperatures are already doing to the planet. He spoke of Arctic warming, melting Greenland ice sheets, and how increasingly acidic seas are striking seashells and coral reefs with a type of osteoporosis.
Gore urged the House panel to make sure the bill includes provisions to protect any Americans who face undue hardship, such as workers in carbon-intensive industries who could lose their jobs.
Wrong bill, says Gingrich
Gingrich was set to testify after Gore. Gingrich, who led a Republican-dominated House from 1995-1999, was added to the lineup late Thursday at the request of Republicans.
While he has urged fellow conservatives that they should play a role in crafting climate and energy policy, he has been critical of the Democratic drafted bill before Congress.
In his prepared remarks, Gingrich argued that the bill would increase electricity rates for consumers by forcing power companies to institute costly measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
He also said the bill would create a massive bureaucracy and “micromanagement” that “are an invitation to corruption and an invitation to more politicians playing games. The idea that the Secretary of Energy is now going to be the czar of Jacuzzis is just absurd.”
During the four days of panels and testimony, more than 50 witnesses espoused on the nitty-gritty details of the 648-page draft bill.