Photo via Marines
During a conference call earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi revealed a timeline for the bold energy and climate bill just introduced to the House of Representatives. The 600 page bill is getting introduced as a discussion draft, and it marks a massive step forward in US energy policy—it includes an aggressive cap and trade system, a nationwide standard for renewable energy, and federal low carbon fuel standard. All of which would be firsts for the US. Sounds ambitious—especially considering that Pelosi wants the bill passed by July. Which is great news—if momentum builds behind this bill, it could sail through the House with a majority vote as soon as this summer. Pelosi said that the timeline she laid out has the bill introduced by May, and passing in July. Then, if it makes its way through the Senate—which, with its different voting rules and the sway of skeptical Republicans and moderate Democrats, is more perilous terrain—we could see a cap and trade system in place as soon as next year.
Imperative to the legislation, Pelosi said, is Obama's budget passing, since the energy provisions it includes are vital to the House's energy and climate bill.
Obama included provisions outlining a cap and trade system in his budget, but prospects of passing the cap through the budget reconciliation process are dim—28 senators formally protested the move. The President himself has said that he'd prefer to have Congress develop legislation—and this energy and climate bill could be it.
The bill, which was authored by Energy and Commerce Henry Waxman and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey, appears to be one of the boldest drafts of energy legislation that's ever been favored to pass. The cap and trade provisions are even more aggressive than Obama's—the Waxman/Markey bill sees a 20% cut in carbon emissions by 2020, while Obama's only projects a 14% cut. Many details, like how to manage auction allowances and how to distribute revenues from the cap and trade, remain open to debate. Details about a renewable energy standard are vague, too, but some believe it would require utilities to use 25% of their energy from clean sources by 2025.
Nancy Pelosi and Ed Markey, who was also on the call this morning, are passionate about the bill moving forward—it's become Pelosi's flagship issue. She mentioned repeatedly needing the bill to be bold, and recognized that a tough political fight lay ahead. And though no Republicans are likely to vote for Obama's budget, and the cap and trade included there, Pelosi has higher hopes for the climate bill in the House. Both she and Markey said that as misconceptions around ideas like the cap and trade fall, they can see Republicans and moderate Dems supporting the bill.
Let's hope so—we're in dire need of an energy revolution. And call me an optimist, but this could be the start.