Tuesday marks Earth Day, the annual event reminding all Americans that a livable, sustainable world cannot be achieved without action. In the last year, the New Direction Congress has taken up that challenge, beginning to reverse the old, failed energy policies of the past, breaking ground on new measures to develop and use clean, renewable energy.
Only five months ago, Congress passed the historic and bipartisan Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 with the goal of reducing American dependence on foreign oil, responding to the global warming crisis and growing our economy while lowering energy costs. The new law is projected to save 5.3 billion metric tons in energy-related CO2 emissions over the next 20 years and reduce oil consumption by 2.4 million barrels a day—almost a 25% reduction over today’s usage. By 2030, the emissions saved every year are equivalent to that of 130 coal burning power plants. The solar investment tax credit in H.R. 5351 alone will reduce carbon emissions by 240 million tons, or the equivalent of taking 52 million passengers cars off the road for one year
The Energy Independence and Security Act also includes key provisions to create green jobs in both rural towns and big cities. By requiring fuel efficiency standards to be raised, American families will save from $700 to $1,000 a year at the pump. The stronger building, appliance and lighting efficiency standards in the law will also save consumers $400 billion through 2030.
The Democratic-led House has a vision for a greener America powered by new "green-collar jobs." We can have it both ways on this, promoting a cleaner environment while maintaining a strong and growing economy. HR 5351 was the first step in that direction– providing an investment in renewable energy with an emphasis on reducing emissions and lowering energy costs over the long-term.
Not to be outdone, this week also marks "Equal Pay Day," a time advocates for equal pay for women mark how far into the following year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earns in one year.
President John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963 into law. But over 40 years later, the wage gap between men and women still exists.
In 1963, women who worked full-time and year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2006, women earned 77 cents to the dollar.
House Democrats are taking action to address the wage gap. We've already passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores basic protections against pay discrimination by rectifying the May 2007 Ledbetter v Goodyear Supreme Court decision that overturned precedent and made it much more difficult for workers to pursue pay discrimination claims. The Senate is scheduled to consider this legislation this week.
The House is also considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by providing more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work.
Equal pay is not simply a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. The wage gap hurts everyone – husbands, wives, children, and parents – because it lowers family incomes that pay for essentials: groceries, doctors’ visits and child care. Furthermore, 41 percent of women are their families’ sole source of income. This is an issue that deserves attention and one that I will continue to fight for in Congress.