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Where’s mine?

I guess the goal is to reduce U.S. carbon emissions and it looks like we are preparing to do that by buying off every stakeholder with something they want. In June, the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill narrowly passed out of the House of Representatives 219-212. There were many things that I didn’t like about that bill like inadequate emission caps, huge giveaways to energy companies, and passing out carbon credits for free to get support. Now, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have introduced their version in the Senate (S. 1733).

The Senate bill is largely the same as the bill that came from the House with a few noteable exceptions; The Senate bill increases the initial carbon cap from 17% in of 2005 levels in the House bill to 20% in S. 1733. Both bills get to an 83% reduction by 2050. That’s better, but still off the mark from what we should be doing. The House bill removed the possibility of regulation of CO2 levels by EPA under the Clean Air Act. There is no such language in the Senate bill. The provisions for creation of clean energy jobs and worker transition and training are a bit stronger under S. 1733. Both bills give away far too many carbon credits for free in order to get the energy industry to sign on although the Senate bill is ever so slightly better in that regard. Both bills are stingy with help for consumers in affording the increasing cost of energy and investment in clean energy sources, but those groups don’t have large lobbies.

In order to reach the congressional nirvana of 60 votes, both bills include lots of language relating to payoffs to industries and interest groups in order to gain support. Both bills would give billions to the energy industry to support Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) projects and research. CCS is a largely unproven technology that is touted by coal companies as a way of making their product seem more environmentally friendly, but has never been proven. Big Energy has responded with ads claiming that CO2 is a good thing and we should be producing more, not less CO2. Both bills support a robust nuclear energy option and Senator Kerry has had talks with Republicans to increase possibilities of more nuclear power plants in order to gain votes. Agriculture is a big energy user and is worried about increasing energy costs due to the legislation. In order to lessen those concerns, the bills would declare croplands to be carbon sinks and energy companies could pay farmers to raise certain crops and thereby receive offsets to their carbon limits. Environmental groups worry that we won’t do enough to curb climate change. To ease their concerns, both houses would put lots of money into things like research on climate change effects on fish and wildlife. They would give money to state and federal agencies for habitat restoration and protection of sensitive areas. Groups like the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited have signed on to support the Senate bill.

Bills from both houses will  be melded sometime this fall into a single clean energy bill. There are other, smaller, more sane, energy bills floating about, but they don’t offer nearly the amount of payola found in the large existing bills so, I reckon that we will see something hit the President’s desk that is a combination of the Waxman-Markey and the Keery-Boxer bills sometime around the end of the year. I think that chances are good we will see some kind of bill regulating carbon emissions this year. These bills include something for nearly everybody, except the climate-change deniers, and that seems to be the way the game is played.


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