Climate Bill Battle Heats Up — This Could Get Ugly


Photo via LA Times

That "mother of all climate weeks" that took place in Congress last week didn't seem to ease anyone's concerns about the Democrat's massive climate and energy bill. No, the furor has continued: Democrats, Republicans, the coal industry, environmentalists, electric companies, and automakers are all locked in a chaotic, ongoing debate that could change the face of America's industry, energy sector—and carbon footprint—forever.Okay, so that might've been a little dramatic—but nonetheless, Congress is reviewing perhaps the most important piece of climate and energy legislation in, well, ever. The bill, among other things, includes a cap and trade system that would curb carbon emissions 20% by 2020 and a renewal energy standard that would require a certain amount of alternative energy be used every year.

The cap and trade idea is by far the most contentious—opponents say making companies pay for their emissions will stifle industry and lead to job loss, especially in the current economic climate. Proponents say that failing to enact a cap and trade (or tax) will slow the transition to clean energy—where hundreds of thousands of jobs are waiting to be created. Also, there's that whole incoming global warming thing.

So what are the different groups' arguments and demands? Politico goes into detail on the situation, and offers a look at what each wants from the bill.

Democrats:
Southern, Coal State, and Midwestern Democrats are greatly concerned about a cap and trade of any kind. From Politico:

Coal-state Democrats want to push back the reduction deadlines to give plants more time to implement carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Midwestern Democrats support setting aside 15 percent of the carbon allowances for free distribution to trade-sensitive industries, like steel, paper and aluminum.

Southern Democrats are concerned about the renewable electric standard included in the bill, arguing that their states have fewer renewable resources.

Some Democrats even want far less ambitious goals:

Boucher suggests emissions reductions of 6 percent by 2020, far less than the 20 percent reduction included in the Waxman and Markey proposal. Both plans would see emissions reduced by 83 percent by 2050.

Republicans:
Republicans are pretty much against the whole thing:
Republicans on the committee argue that a cap-and-trade system would raise costs on already-strapped businesses and consumers, particularly in the middle of the country, and they are threatening a slew of GOP amendments.

Electric Companies
Electric companies want to make sure that all those carbon credit's aren't auctioned—they want them for free, at least some of them.
The utilities want Congress to give 40 percent of the cap-and-trade system allowances for free to regulated local distribution companies. The electric companies argue that getting the free allowances would enable them to reduce the impact of the cap-and-trade-related price increase on consumers, including low-income families and businesses.

Environmentalists
And the groups lobbying Congress on our behalf?
Many environmental groups believe that all the allowances should be auctioned off, with the proceeds used to invest in clean energy and to offset consumer price increases. Giving away allowances, they say, will slow the transition to cleaner types of energy.

Automakers
Perhaps in an attempt to please the government that keeps on bailing it out, the auto industry isn't as opposed to a cap and trade as one might think.
Car manufacturers generally support the bill but want 5 percent of the cap-and-trade revenues to help fund the development of greener automobile technologies.

Coal Industry
Clean coal, anyone?
Coal companies want to preserve the incentives for the commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage technology projects included in the draft. They’d also like to push back the start date of a cap-and-trade system, currently set at 2012, to give companies and the federal government at least five years to prepare for the new system.

There you have it—the climate melee continues to brew in Congress. Obviously, not all of these groups are going to get what they want, if this bill is going to pass in any worthwhile fashion. Looks to be quite a fight.

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Tags: Carbon Emissions | Congress | Economics | Global Warming Solutions