Cheers, jeers and polite applause: reaction to House climate change law

The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the massive climate change bill last night with a vote of 33-25 to boos, cheers and polite, conditional applause. Here’s a sampling:
On one extreme there’s Myron Ebell of the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, who calls it “probably the most destructive bill ever passed out of a congressional committee”, “the biggest tax increase in the history of the world,” that will “will destroy millions of jobs and create perpetual economic stagnation.”
Then there’s Friends of the Earth which says it can’t support the bill because:

• It sets the bar too low. It would reduce pollution, but not enough to save us from catastrophic effects of global warming.

• Instead of being forced to pay for the transition to clean energy, corporate polluters would receive hundreds of billions of dollars in handouts, and ordinary citizens like you and me would be stuck with the costs. (That’s why Shell Oil and other corporate polluters support the bill.)

• The bill contains massive “offset” loopholes that would delay its already-too-weak pollution reductions.

• Despite the recent financial meltdown, the bill allows Wall Street traders to game new carbon markets, creating the potential for wild swings in energy prices that damage our economy.

On the side of the cheerleaders is Environment Texas, which proclaims:

“This bill fires the starting gun in the race to build America’s clean energy economy and solve global warming. The bill begins to lay the groundwork for a future powered by the wind and sun – energy sources that won’t run out, don’t harm our environment, and will only grow cheaper over time.”

Two groups and others were sure to praise Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston) and Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-San Antonio) for their votes in support as well.
American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and CEO Cal Dooley has a more nuanced critique of the bill. He praised the “emission reduction target/timetable, treatment of energy feedstocks, and energy efficiency provisions.” However:

“… we are very concerned that the emissions allocation provision for trade-vulnerable industries …. treats energy-intensive industries differently from every other U.S. sector. The bill assigns a baseline year of 2005 for energy-intensives versus a flexible, multi-year base period for other sectors. The year 2005 was a low-emission one for the chemical industry due to hurricane-related production disruptions, and the designation puts chemical makers at a disadvantage despite the significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions the industry has achieved over the past two decades. The bill also employs a different emission allowance schedule for energy-intensive industries as compared with other sectors, reducing allowances over time and unfairly depriving energy-intensive manufacturers of receiving more than 200 million allowances through 2021, at an estimated cost of more than $5 billion.”

It’s a bit complicated but they’re saying what year you choose as your starting point makes a big difference, and 2005 would make it even harder the the chemical business. They also express concern that there are too many unknowns about the development of carbon capture and storage technology for some of the early reduction deadlines to be met.
The American Petroleum Institute’s President Jack Gerard said the bill “has laudable environmental and economic goals,” but “… its inequitable system of allocations remains intact and if enacted would have a disproportionate adverse impact on consumers, businesses and producers of gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, crude oil and natural gas.” By this he means the relatively few free emissions allocations refiners get from the bill.
Point Carbon analyzes the impact on coal fired power plant operators, noting the total value of the emissions credits given to those companies will be worth about $61 billion from 2012 to 2030:

“Merchant coal generators in the regions with natural gas on the margin will break even under the proposed allocation. Those in regions where coal is more frequently on the margin are likely to earn a profit from the proposed allowance allocation in the first years of the program.”

And Platt’s notes today that “Nuclear is still not a renewable, but not for lack of trying.” Seems that industry did better than expected in a failed attempt to get nukes included.
And, a little visual perspective on how the latest version of the compares to the one just last month, courtesy of the World Resources Institute:

waxman_wri_may_19 Graph showing greenhouse gas reductions under the version that passed the House committee this week….

waxman_wri_april_22
…. and the reductions under an April 22 version.

Do you see a big difference?

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