Barack Obama’s US climate change bill passes key Congress vote
83% in 2050. It will also set up a national cap and trade system.
– as an important victory.
history,” said Ed Markey, one of the bill’s authors. “Scientists say global warming
is a dangerous man-made problem. Today we are saying clean energy will be the
US energy use. “This could be the defining bill of this Congress,” said Republican
house leader John Boehner.
– before it can be signed into law. But the vote was indisputably an important
of one of his signature campaign promises, within six months of coming to the
for international action on climate change at Copenhagen this year.
the international negotiations have largely been stymied by countries waiting
to see what the US will do,” said Jennifer Haverkamp, the director of international
climate policy for the Environmental Defence Fund. “Passage of the house bill
is just one step in that process, but it is such a crucial step and a high hurdle.”
would require power companies to produce 15% of their electricity from wind and
leadership had made several major concessions to win support from party refuseniks, weakening the bill. Several environmental
organisations admitted they were disappointed. Greenpeace went so far as to call on Congress to reject it.
to go to extraordinary lengths to muster enough support for passage. Obama put
his personal prestige on the line – making three appeals in the space of 48 hours
this week for Congress to deliver the bill.
package of energy reforms as a jobs creation programme.
minute to round up final stragglers, but heroic measures were needed. Patrick
Kennedy of Massachusetts, who checked in to a rehab clinic two weeks ago, returned
to Congress; so did John Lewis of Georgia despite having surgery only days ago.
Forty-four Democrats – mostly from conservative and rural areas – voted against
the measure. However, eight Republicans voted for the bill, breaking their party’s
blanket opposition to action on climate change, and allowing Obama to claim a
share of bipartisan support for his energy reforms.
The Nobel-prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that to
avoid the worst climate impacts such as intense droughts, super charged hurricanes
and increased heat waves, the U.S. and other industrialized countries must cut
their emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020. This bill, as it’s currently written, only calls for a 4% reduction by 2020. And there’s very little chance those targets will be improved.
These weak targets are made even worse by 2 billion tons per year of allowable offsets. Offsets allow polluters to put off for more than a decade real cuts in their
emissions The offsets are so high that they will exceed the actual pollution reductions
required until at least 2026 â€” that’s time we don’t have!
Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of global warming pollution
in the U.S. In order to tackle climate change, we need to begin phasing out
coal immediately. But instead of phasing-out coal plants, ACES will actually
encourage the growth of a new generation of coal-fired plants! To add insult
to injury, tens of billions of taxpayer dollars would be spent on the myth of
carbon capture and sequestration â€” an untested and unproven technology that is
decades away from full-scale deployment even by the most optimistic estimates.
regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Actâ€”an authority that was recently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court. Now that the
House has proven that it won’t step up and stop global warming, President Obama’s
power to regulate greenhouse gases is our greatest hope.
agreed, by 219 votes to 212, on Friday June 25th to cap emissions of carbon dioxide,
the main greenhouse gas.
to mitigate emissions will improve). By 2050 the cuts should hit 83%.
through the legislative process. Drafted by Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, with support from the Obama administration, the bill originally envisioned
a cap-and-trade system whereby credits conferring the right to emit greenhouse
gases would be sold to the highest bidders. The revenue from such an auction
would be used to offset increasing energy bills.
the bill looked like it might generate opposition from fiscally conservative Democrats
or those that represented states with lots of farmers. The support of those Democrats
would be needed to get the legislation past near-unanimous Republican opposition.
would not affect how American farmers producing crops to make ethanol would be
considered under the bill. Farmers had howled that, by the original proposals,
planting more crops to produce ethanol would mean less land devoted to food crops.
This would clearly cause food prices to rise. Farmers in (say) Brazil might
then cut down Amazon rainforest to make up the shortfall in America. That chopped-down
Amazon would have counted against the Iowan corn farmer when carbon credits were
doled out. Mr Waxman agreed to suspend the provision for five years, so the
National Academy of Sciences could further study the subject.
The Department of Agriculture, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency,
will determine what counts as a carbon "offset".
trees or reducing tillage, would get carbon credits. The EPA is reckoned to be
a tough regulator that would make sure farmers did not get credits for doing things
that they would do anyway. The Department of Agriculture is expected to be more
friendly to farmers.
the Environmental Defence Fund, the Sierra Club and others-have said that the
bill is flawed but far better than nothing. More than that, they claim that once in place it can be tightened over time.
in the House (since each state, no matter how sparsely populated, gets two senators).
It must go through another clutch of committees, each of which is susceptible
to lobbying by special interests with long experience of getting their way. The
energy committee, for example, has already passed a bill on renewables that has
disappointed greens. The Senate’s majority leader, Harry Reid, wants a vote on
the package by mid-September.
to the Kyoto protocol other big countries are showing their hands on climate change. Russia and Japan have announced targets that are well shy of the goals set by
European countries, currently leading the world with their green ambitions. China and India are refusing to countenance any hard ceilings on their own emissions. An American carbon bill is regarded as a necessary step before anything of
substance can be agreed in Copenhagen. But a weak bill might mean that the impetus
for serious discussions is lacking.