Historic Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill Passes Energy & Commerce Committee: Praise and Criticism Starts Flowing

Last night the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the landmark Waxman-Markey climate legislation (officially known as the American Clean Energy & Security Act...), by a vote of 33-25 with votes largely falling along party lines.* Within minutes of word getting out of its passing, email statements came flooding in from all quarters both in praise and criticism. Here's a taste of that, the praise first: Boilerplate Praise from Obama & Gore
President Obama commended the efforts of the Committee for their efforts to get the billed passed, saying in a prepared statement that he looked forward to signing comprehensive climate legislation:

We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil crack down on polluters, and create millions on new jobs all across America. The bill is historic for what it achieves, providing clean energy incentives that encourage innovation while recognizing the concerns of sensitive industries and regions in this country.

Yes those "sensitive industries and regions" are those more dependent on coal than other places, and which are worried both about their bottom line and/or not being able to meet the originally proposed 25% renewable energy requirement.

Al Gore expressed the Alliance on Climate Protection's congratulations in words quite similar (and prepared) as the President's. Gore, said that the bill represents,

...a crucial step forward in addressing the global climate crisis, the need for millions of green jobs to end the recession, and the national security threats that have long been linked to our growing dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels.

This Crucial Step Forward Could Be Much, Much Stronger
All that requisite backslapping aside, and recognizing that this is an historic step for the United States, this historic step isn't quite as far as many people (myself included) had hope it would be.

In fact, a prepared statement from Greenpeace (representing a coalition of environmental groups: Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, Citizen Power, Center for Biological Diversity, Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, The Utility Reform Network, Sustainable Energy & Economy Network, Green Delaware, Massachusetts Environmental Energy Alliance, Massachusetts Forest Watch, Coal Moratorium Now!) lays out in no uncertain terms their feelings on the bill.

In short, they cannot support this bill in its current watered-down form, adding that the bill "reflects the triumph of politics over science, and the triumph of industry influence over the public interest... today's bill is not only inadequate it is counterproductive."

While I'm not entirely sure counterproductive is the correct term, inadequate certainly is.

So Let's Work to Ensure the Final Version Passes Green Muster
Carl Pope of the Sierra Club was more diplomatic his commenting on what transpired tonight and the work required before the bill goes to full House, which it is expected to do before the August recess at the latest. Here's what Pope said:

Moving a comprehensive clean energy jobs plan through a committee historically dominated by those with ties to the oil, coal, and other polluting industries is a laudable victory and truly historic accomplishment...As this piece of legislation moves forward we will work with our allies to mount a vigorous effort to strengthen this bill.

US Political Will and Scientific Recommendations Rapidly Drifting Apart
In the end though, the following statement, also from Greenpeace, really nails the widening gap between what leading climate scientists say is required to avert the worst effects of climate change—as well as what a coalition of developing nations (led somewhat ironically by China) is saying the developed world must do to avoid climate change caused humanitarian disaster—and what is embodied in the bill:
As passed through the Energy & Commerce Committee, the American Clean Energy and Security Act sets targets for reducing pollution that are far weaker than science says is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.  The targets are far less ambitious than what is achievable with already existing technology.  They are further undermined by massive loopholes that could allow the most polluting industries to avoid real emission reductions until 2027.  Rather than provide relief and support to consumers, the bill showers polluting industries with hundreds of billions of dollars in free allowances and direct subsidies that will slow renewable energy development and lock in a new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants.  At the same time, the bill would remove the President’s authority to address global warming pollution using laws already on the books.

The international community cannot solve global warming without real leadership from the United States. We urge the President to demonstrate that leadership by working with Congressional leaders to craft a real, science-based response to the challenge of global warming and by immediately exercising his substantial authority to regulate global warming emissions under existing laws.

* For those keeping track of how people voted... The only Republican to vote for the bill was Mary Bono Mack of California. Four Democrats voted against it: John Barrow from Georgia, Jim Matheson from Utah, Charlie Melancon of Louisian, and Mike Ross of Arkansas.

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Tags: Barack Obama | Carbon Emissions | Congress | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Solutions | Renewable Energy | United States


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