Photo via Dip Dive
The Democrat's climate bill is heading for a vote in the House of Representatives today. A lot has been staked on its passage: Obama's political capital. Pelosi's prestige, and, oh yeah, the future security of the world's climate. There are plenty of representatives who are undecided on how they'll vote, and the chances of the bill passing are still uncertain even in the 11th hour. Here's a quick rundown of where the bill stands now, and what you need to know in order to join the rest of us green wonks in biting our nails whilst perched on the edge of our seats . . .
Quick Climate Bill Overview
The bill is massive--currently 1,200 pages--but here are the key components of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (according to the official Budget Summary):
1. A National Renewable Energy Standard
The bill would implement a renewable energy standard for the US that would "require electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020." Which is a solid, if mild target.
2. Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The bill will "reduce carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels." It will do so by implementing a cap and trade system that sets a 'cap' on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a company can emit, and forcing polluting companies to have permits for each ton of pollution they create. Most of the permits will initially be given away for free, but by 2015, a permit for each ton of pollution will be $13, and by 2030, they'll cost $26 per ton.
Where the Climate Revenue WIll Go:
Money generated from the cap and trade will go to the following:
55% of the allowances will be used to protect consumers from energy price increases; 19% will be used to assist trade-vulnerable and other industries make the transition to a clean energy economy; 13% will be used to support investments in clean energy and energy efficiency; and 10% will be used for domestic adaptation, worker assistance and training, prevention of deforestation, and international adaptation. The remainder (3% of allowances) will be used to help ensure that ACES is budget neutral.
3. Clean Energy Investments
The bill will direct a lot of funding to renewable energy, and unfortunately, clean coal technology. It will
Invest in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).
4. Bring on the Energy Efficiency
Through a slew of measures, the bill will "Mandate new energy-saving standards for buildings and appliances, and promote energy efficiency in industry."
Where the Climate Bill Stands TodayIn short: on the fence. Though Pelosi seems confident the bill will pass, many have their doubts. Barack Obama, who's been criticized by environmentalists and some Democrats for not advocating the bill vocally enough, has come through with some so-called 11th hour support. He's been calling skeptical Democrats and urging them to vote yes, but some fear it's too little too late. But why are Democrats skeptical in the first place?
Mostly because those Democrats who represent rural areas or coal or oil heavy regions fear the repercussions of voting for the bill now, and seeing it fail in the Senate. If that happens, their political opponents would ostensibly be able to capitolize on the Dems trying to pass "what amounts to a massive tax" (that's the Republican attack line) when they come up for reelection next term.
Republicans, none of which are expected to vote in favor of the climate bill, have been stressing this idea, and it's surely wracked the nerves of some moderate Dems. But with the once-opposed Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson now on board, it may be more attractive for the more doubtful members of the party.
What Will Happen?Well, we won't be able to say for a few hours more. But hopefully it passes--though some environmentalists are critical of the bill's watered down measures, I personally think it absolutely needs to pass. It's beyond a matter of is-it-good-enough (which it may not be), but simply passing it with the provisions it currently offers is much-needed progress. We can't sit idly by while companies continue to amp up their emissions. We need to support the clean energy economy as it finds its legs. As the most powerful nation on Earth, we can't allow climate change to progress unchecked. We need to pass this bill--it's an ethical necessity.
Head over to the Committe of Energy and Commerce website to read the full summary (or the whole thing, if you've got a spare week or five) of the climate bill.