Sen. Klobuchar addresses global warming

The first-term senator applauded the University’s research on renewable energy.

Courtney Blanchard

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke on campus Monday about global warming going mainstream and praised the University’s energy efforts.

“After years of congressional inaction, neglect and even defiance on this issue, I believe we’re finally seeing change,” she said, addressing the nearly packed house at the Hubert H. Humphrey Center’s Cowles Auditorium.

Klobuchar has only been in Washington for a few months, but she said she’s already involved with global warming on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, one of four committees the senator serves on.

“In Minnesota, stewardship for the environment is part of our heritage,” Klobuchar said. “It’s also an important part of our economy.”

Klobuchar applauded the University’s research on renewable energy, such as the study of switch grass and other natural prairie grasses for energy use.

She suggested several directions for the country to go in to combat the effects of global warming, including a cap-and-trade system that would restrict the volume of pollutants companies can emit, forcing high polluters to buy the extra “space” from lower polluters.

But federal lawmakers have yet to develop national standards on pollution emission, and Klobuchar said something must be done before the 2008 presidential race shifts power and focus from the issue.

Klobuchar lauded former Vice President Al Gore, who might be up for an honorary doctorate from the University for his work raising awareness about global warming.

“Any time you can talk about something on the Academy Awards, that’s big,” she said.

Klobuchar said the issue has come a long way with outspoken advocates like Gore. The debate in the Environment and Public Works Committee, she said, has passed from whether the problem exists to what to do about it.

“This isn’t just about 8-year-olds crying about penguins anymore,” she said.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale attended the speech and afterward commended Klobuchar.

“I think she’s got a brilliant grasp of the issue,” he said. “It shows she’s growing in the Senate.”

Mondale said the global warming debate has changed dramatically from his days in the White House.

“We had a hard time explaining, to prove to people, that it was a crisis,” he said. “People thought we were overreacting.”

A question from the audience addressed the feasibility of implementing policy that could be harmful economically even if it’s beneficial to the environment.

Klobuchar said such policies will pay off in the long run, but it could be difficult to pass them in the meantime.

Mondale agreed, citing the Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is going to be a multi-year project,” he said. “It’s so deep in our culture; we must really work at it.”

The first-term Democratic senator kicked off the inaugural part of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance’s new program, Connecting with Government: Public Forums with Minnesota’s Elected Officials.

Other elected officials will pass through the Humphrey Center this year, including representatives Betty McCollum, Tim Walz and Jim Ramstad.

Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, said the event will allow politicians to talk openly with the public.

“This is to give the opportunity to government officials to rise above fractious debates and to talk plainly about the substantive challenges facing our country,” he said.