Senate Climate Bill A Game Changer?

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

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Yesterday, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) released their version of a Climate Bill, called the American Power Act.  The bill is “balanced” to improve its chances, but by setting a path to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop renewable energy, it still represents a paradigm shift that would promote healthier oceans, drive economic and job growth and enable independence from foreign oil.

What we like:

  • It mandates a 17% reduction in carbon pollution from 2005 levels by 2020, 42% by 2030 and 83% by 2050. Not as fast as some would like, but in line with Waxman-Markey.
  • It sets a price for carbon, with a $12 floor and a $25 ceiling (with each set to grow over time), which will drive investment in renewable energy.
  • It allows carbon trading, but by a limited set of entities on a regulated exchange, allowing market forces to create pricing efficiency while limiting speculation.

What we don’t like:

  • It pre-empts states from implementing mandatory greenhouse gas reductions.
  • It restricts the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.
  • Like the House Bill, it has the USDA, not the EPA regulate Agriculture offsets.
  • The biggest flaw – it doesn’t ban new offshore drilling; disappointing, but not surprising, given national politics.

In response to the BP oil spill, the bill was changed to give “impacted” states the right to veto oil drilling plans of neighboring states, and allow states to veto any drilling within 75 miles off their coast.  This improves upon the current reality, but we’d like to see more.

Ocean Champions supports passage of the American Power Act, with the caveat that we want new offshore drilling out.  The bill is a starting point for negotiations, and it may be possible to improve on its flaws. However, this may be the last chance to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a long time, and depending on final language, passing a solid bill may be better than failing on a perfect one.

Can it pass?  Moving anything in the Senate these days requires sixty votes, and Senators are being assailed by constituents who fear higher energy costs.  It’s unclear what effect the BP Gulf oil spill will have, but offshore drilling is now an issue that must be addressed.  That said, the spill highlights the need for a renewable energy strategy, and there is support from both industry and environmental groups.  The public response to the bill may well shape its destiny, and you can help by engaging with a positive message: Tell your Senators to pass this bill, but without offshore oil drilling.  Write them and call them (Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121) and make sure your voice is heard.  Together, maybe we can change the world!

Date Posted: May 13, 2010 @ 10:30 am Comments Off