WASHINGTON – Calling himself “a passionate advocate” for energy policy, Sen. John Kerry said Thursday that climate change was among the top international threats facing the United States, cheering environmentalists and disappointing oil industry officials, who have been watching how his confirmation as secretary of state could affect the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline.
In his opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry said that American foreign policy “is defined by life-threatening issues like climate change,” along with political unrest in Africa and human trafficking across the globe.
Kerry, the panel’s outgoing chairman, has made the issue of global warming central to his career in public service. The Massachusetts Democrat has traveled repeatedly to international climate negotiations and pushed in the Senate – unsuccessfully – for a limit on national greenhouse gas emissions.
Later this year, the State Department must decide whether to grant TransCanada a presidential permit to build the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline extension, which would carry heavy crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to America’s Gulf Coast refineries.
Climate activists warn that the project would be devastating to the planet, while proponents say the pipeline would boost the nation’s energy security and generate short-term construction jobs.
Kerry did not offer his opinion on the pipeline project.
He responded more forcefully, however, when asked whether, in this economy, he believed the government should be spending funds on energy resources while imposing stricter regulations that increase costs.
“The solution to climate change is energy policy,” Kerry said. “You want to do business and do it well in America, we got to get into the energy race.” He cited California and his own state of Massachusetts as places where clean energy and energy efficiency are “growing faster than any other sector ... This is a job creator.”
Noting that the United States broke heat and fire records and had record-high damages from Superstorm Sandy, Kerry said: “If we can’t see the downside of spending that money and risking lives for all the changes that are taking place, to agriculture, to our communities, the ocean and so forth, we’re ignoring what science is telling us. So I will be a passionate advocate on this, but not based on ideology but based on facts, based on science.”
Environmentalists have put Kerry on notice that they expect him to use his new post to curb the nation’s carbon output, in part by rejecting TransCanada’s permit.
Obama made the moral argument for addressing global warming in his second inaugural address on Tuesday, saying, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”