Tag Archives: Climate Bill

First Look at the Kerry Lieberman Energy Bill: Pros and Cons

The long awaited Kerry-Lieberman climate and energy bill was finally unveiled today without a Republican co-sponsor after Lindsey Graham withdrew his support. Still, the American Power Act reflects most of the promises that had been made by the trio over the past months; both good and bad.

A strong push by electric, coal, and gas lobbies to protect their industries is heavily reflected in the bill which promotes nuclear power, “clean” coal, and offshore drilling. Also, carbon caps will be established on a rolling sector-by-sector basis which will not affect certain industries for (like manufacturing) for over 5 years, while others (like agriculture) are completely exempt. This leaves open the possibility for these sectors to produce “offsets” – or free carbon credits – which can be sold to regulated sectors in lieu of making real emissions cuts.

Here is a general overview of the high and low points contained in a draft text released by Kerry’s office today:

Pros

Cons

Carbon Cap:

The bill calls for an economy-wide emissions reduction to 95.25 percent of 2005 levels by 2013, 83 percent by 2020, 58 percent by 2030, and 17 percent by 2050.

Domestic Offsets:

Establishes a nationwide system under which sources not subject to the greenhouse gas emission reduction program may receive credits for making reductions in emissions that can be sold to and used by those subject to reduction requirements.

Coastal Drilling Opt-out:

States have the right to opt-out of drilling up to 75 miles from their shores, and veto projects of nearby states.

Offshore Drilling:

Despite a smattering of new regulations, offshore drilling stays in the nation’s long-term energy plan.

Clean Energy Funding:

Establishes a Clean Energy Technology Fund, though source for funding is not explicitly outlined.

Nuclear Power:

Incentives include a new investment tax credit to promote the construction of new generating facilities, $54 billion in loan guarantees and a manufacturing tax credit to spur the domestic production of nuclear parts.

Clean Transportation:

Supports electric vehicle infrastructure; provides funding to municipal transportation emissions reduction programs.

“Clean” Coal:

Annual $2 billion for research and development of carbon capture and sequestration methods and devices.

Clean Energy Career Development:

Grants and career training in the fields of clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency, climate change mitigation, and climate change adaptation.

International Offsets:

Establishes an independent advisory committee to monitor and approve international offset projects which allow US industries to continue polluting.

Customer Refund:

Two thirds of revenues from carbon trading will rebated to consumers, though not directly.

State Pre-emption:

States will not be permitted to operate their own cap-and-trade programs.

The next few weeks will undoubtedly see push-back from both the right and the left on a number of the bill’s more controversial elements. The chance of any legislation passing the Senate before the summer campaign season begins remains murky, but a strong push by the administration and civil society could mean a victory for the comprehensive, albeit less than perfect, bill.

View the full bill text here.

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Kerry-Graham-Lieberman Climate Bill Could Make Matters Worse

Months have passed since the Senate trio took up the task of cobbling together a climate bill that everyone might agree on. However, as details continue to be revealed about the draft legislation, many an eyebrow is being raised over certain provisions that could prove a step backward for environmental protection.

In wide-sweeping attempts to court business interests and Senate moderates, the legislation cuts back on the power of other regulatory entities – like the EPA and state governments. Lindsay Graham told Politico:

“I wouldn’t support EPA regulation on top of congressional action, and I couldn’t support 50 states coming up with their own standards,” he said. “That’s one thing business legitimately needs.”

Environmental activists have long been prepared for a disappointing, compromise-ridden bill – but the common wisdom has always been “something is better than nothing.” The danger now is that this bill, as written, would actually do more harm than good.

Much to the chagrin of polluting companies, the Environmental Protection Agency has been extremely effective in cleaning up our air and water. Air quality has improved tremendously since the agency was established in 1970, as the American Enterprise Institute unwittingly pointed out.

Congress, on the other hand, has a long history of pandering to the oil and coal lobbies, among others. Considering that any bill that comes out of Congress is bound to be riddled with loopholes, the regulatory power of the EPA would probably be the only hope for making sure businesses truly cut down on their carbon emissions. A number of green groups, including 1Sky and Sierra Club, are pressuring lawmakers to uphold the regulatory authority of the EPA.

Another huge blow would be dealt by restricting state and local governments which, up to now, have been responsible for the most ambitious climate action this country has seen. More than 20 states currently participate in regional cap-and-trade programs, and many states have employed renewable energy standards to promote clean energy. Pending legislation would block these programs, likely forcing many states to accept far lower carbon caps.

This is what happens when you try to write a clean energy and climate bill and invite oil and gas companies to the table.

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Filed under Environment