U.S. Climate Bill Passes House, Expected to Pass Senate

It was a tough fight, full of compromises and concessions, but on June 26, the U.S. climate change bill, properly known as HR 2454 or the Waxman-Markey bill, passed the House of Representatives in a 219-212 vote. The bill is a far cry from its original form (too far according to many environmentalists), but nevertheless, it marks a historic stand on climate change.

As it now exists, HR 2454 commits the country to cutting carbon emissions by 17% by 2020, and by 83% by 2050. It also sets up a national cap-and-trade system, which caps the emissions companies are allowed to produce, but allows more efficient companies to trade the remainder of their allowances to companies that cannot meet the goals. This provides for some companies to exceed the emissions cap without jeopardizing the overall emissions-reduction goals.

In the end, however, these targets are smaller than those originally proposed, and concessions made to utilities (particularly those dependent on coal-burning), automakers, steel companies, natural gas drillers, and refiners (among others) have many environmentalists concerned that the integrity of the bill has been undermined. Greenpeace even called upon Congress to vote it down.

Concern is also growing over what further concessions might have to be made to get the bill through Senate, where, according to Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, it will face another "very tough" fight.

The bill's creators remain positive, however. Co-author Edward J. Markey called the bill "the most important energy and environment bill in [the] nation's history." Also remaining positive is President Barack Obama's energy and climate policy coordinator, Carol Browner, who remains "confident that...comprehensive energy legislation will pass the Senate."

Only time will tell if this optimism is warranted, but for now, we're happy to call the passage of this bill through the House a step in the right direction. It may not be as big a step as environmentalists hoped, but it's a step nonetheless.

2 comments
Posted by Innovative Solar on February 12,2010 at 2:57 PM

The nation must begin looking for renewable energy solutions to reduce our energy dependence. We must find ways to do this as a long-term solution, not just for the here and now. We must move towards eliminating the things that cause our biggest problems related to climate and the environment.

-RH

Posted by nerd on July 9,2009 at 6:02 AM

Polluters love the new carbon tax idea. So does Wall Street. The opposition, however, includes Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Public Citizen.

In a joint May 13 press release, these three environmental groups were "extremely troubled (about) compromises to the already flawed American Clean Energy & Security Act."

It contains enough loopholes to make its claimed performance standards worthless, one of which prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate future greenhouse gas emissions.

On June 23, Friends of the Earth president Brent Blackwelder said:

"Corporate polluters including Shell and Duke Energy helped write this bill, and the result is that we're left with legislation that fails to come anywhere close to solving the climate crisis. Worse, the bill eliminates preexisting EPA authority to address global warming - that means it's actually a step backward."

A June 25 Greenpeace press release stated:

"As it comes to the floor, the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions."

On June 27, Public Citizen (PC) called the bill "a new legal right to pollute (that) gives away 85 percent of (its) credits to polluters. (It) will not solve our climate crisis but will enrich already powerful oil, coal and nuclear power companies."

PC wants consumers protected, not charged a "carbon tax....The bill doesn't, but should, provide money to help homeowners pay for such things as weatherization or to receive rebates for rooftop solar. Its main consumer protection provision distributes free pollution allowances to electric and natural gas utilities (on the assumption) that the 50 different state utility commissions will redirect all that money back to consumers." In fact, HR 2454 is a thinly-veiled scheme to let companies profit from polluted air, in part financed by a consumer "carbon tax."