Senate Climate Bill Moving Slowly

By Published On: October 30, 2009

An all-star cast of policy makers vetted a federal climate change bill October 27-29 in the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee. The Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act of 2009 appeared to cement intractable differences between mid-nation states’ enamor with fossil fuels, and coastal state lawmakers. The debate over the bill essentially boiled down to fossil jobs v. new jobs--or in Washington parlance, “Red, white & blue” jobs v. “green” jobs. The legislation “will drive away jobs” to other nations, said Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK). He added that greenhouse gas reductions would cost the country $300-$400 billion a year. “Are we willing to ruin an American industry that fuels the economy?” asked Valero chief executive officer Bill Klesse. Committee chair Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) admitted it would cost energy consumers 22-30 cents a day. She added that it is a small cost to “put ourselves in control of our energy future.” The “cost of doing nothing,” she added, “is huge.” During the hearings, military brass told the committee that continuing reliance on fossil fuels is a “threat” to national security. The Senate bill, S. 1733, is the counterpart to House legislation passed in June. S. 1733 sets greenhouse gas reduction goals at 20 percent below what was emitted in 2005 (the House bill sets a 17 percent reduction). It creates the underpinnings of a cap-and-trade market for carbon credits. It allows forest and agricultural lands to be used for carbon offsets. While some Senators in other committees are beginning to embrace a carbon tax as an alternative to the more complex task of setting up a trading market based on greenhouse gas credits, in this primary committee, the only game in Washington D.C., appears to be a cap-and-trade system. “We’re not the end-all and be-all,” said Boxer. She noted that 34 states, including California, are addressing greenhouse emissions. The committee, Boxer, said is merely following states’ lead to a cap-and-trade system. Action could occur by the end of November, according to Boxer’s office.

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