Democrats gave some ground in the latest version of the climate change bill, according to our D.C reporter Jennifer Dhlouhy, but it’s not yet clear how hard Houston’s refining industry will get hit. Texas Democrat Gene Green is trying to stand up for the locals:
Under the compromise, greenhouse gas emissions would be capped at 17 percent below 2005 levels in 2020 — a looser standard than the 20 percent reduction Waxman had originally sought. That proposed cap is more rigorous than the 14 percent goal President Barack Obama has sought or the 6 percent target advocated by some committee Democrats.
To exceed the limits, power plants, refiners, manufacturers and other industries would have to buy emissions allowances on a new carbon market. But after weeks of negotiations, committee Democrats have agreed to give away 35 percent of the allowances to electric utilities, 15 percent to trade-sensitive industries such as timber and steel manufacturing and a small number to the auto industry.
Still undecided was the question of how many allowances should be given to refiners, with the final number likely to rest between 1 percent and 5 percent.
Green, the unofficial leader of a group of oil-patch Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee, was pushing the higher number.
Here are some reactions to the latest version (won’t be the last) that we’ll update as more are made available:
The Campaign for an Energy-Efficient America, “a national coalition of more than 75 business and environmental organizations advocating for a strong energy efficiency resource standard” was disappointed the plant to require utilities to reduce electricity demand 5 to 8 percent by 2020 through energy efficiency measures didn’t go further:
The earlier version of the bill “recognized the value of energy efficiency by setting a strong target that would have required electricity and natural gas utilities to achieve cumulative energy savings of 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively, by 2020. The compromise reached to improve prospects for the bill’s passage shrinks the efficiency target to five to eight percent – literally leaving tens of billions of dollars in consumer savings on the bargaining table.
Representative Henry Waxman, the architect of climate-change legislation, agreed to cut by half penalties utilities would pay for failing to meet requirements for production of renewable electricity, according to a lawmaker who sought the more lenient standard.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Public Citizen say “We are extremely troubled by the reports coming out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last night on additional compromises to the already flawed American Clean Energy & Security Act. The world needs real leadership from Congress and the Administration to address global warming – action that will enable us to transform our economy with clean, renewable energy technology, new green jobs and show leadership internationally. If reports are true, the compromises being struck on the bill undermine these goals.”
WoodMackenzie analyst Bill Durbin says this just might not be the year for the climate change bill:
“Though Republicans are marginalized in the House, they can use Senate rules to block or delay legislation, especially for policies where Democrats may not be fully aligned. Climate change is one such policy. There is a palpable reticence among a number of Senate Democrats that is slowing momentum to act. But the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent Endangerment Finding clears the way for the Obama Administration to initiate GHG regulations without the participation of Congress. So now it’s not if GHG regulations come but when. Congress must either act or abdicate. But when can Congress act?
Importantly, another policy pillar–health care reform–is looking to jump the legislative queue to the potential detriment of climate change legislation. Why? Because a mandate for health care reform is to provide health insurance benefits to approximately 50 million uninsured Americans, a situation exacerbated by the ongoing recession.”
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and other Members of Congress will hold a press conference at 9:30 a.m. Eastern on Friday, May 15 to unveil legislation to address excessive speculation in the energy markets and provide for regulation of the carbon market that would be created by legislation under consideration in the House Energy and Commerce Committee next week.
The Prevent Unfair Manipulation of Prices (PUMP) Act, introduced by Stupak in the past two sessions of Congress, has been updated to reflect new developments in the abuses of the dark markets by speculators and to include regulation of the carbon markets to prevent similar abuses before they begin.
Now the Union of Concerned Scientists weighs in, saying they know compromise is often necessary, but they’re still disappointed:
A stronger renewable electricity standard, for example, would help generate new jobs and billions of dollars in consumer savings, according to Alan Nogee, director of UCS’s Clean Energy Program. “We’re disappointed the agreement on this standard won’t require utilities to use any more renewable electricity than the Energy Information Administration projects would be generated as a result of state renewable electricity standards already in place and the recently enacted stimulus package.”
The committee’s compromise would give the auto industry 3 percent of cap-and-trade auction allowances between 2012 and 2017 and 1 percent thereafter, through 2025. Based on an estimated allowance price from $10 to $25 per ton of carbon emissions over that time, the auto industry would receive the equivalent of $15 billion this year to help it build cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles, reducing oil imports and insulating Americans from volatile gasoline prices, according to UCS. But these cleaner vehicles will not be available unless the administration ensures that the Environmental Protection Agency sets global warming emission standards for cars and trucks that meet — or beat — state standards.
“The proposed bill would have a very modest impact on gasoline prices — only about 9 to 20 cents per gallon between 2012 and 2025, or less than we’ve seen gasoline prices rise in the past month,” said David Friedman, research director for UCS’s Clean Vehicles Program. Since the beginning of 2009, gas prices have jumped more than 60 cents. “If we do this right, cutting carbon emissions from the transportation sector and curbing our oil addiction actually will save U.S. households tens of billions of dollars every year.”
James Hansen, climate scientist and an advocate of a revenue-neutral carbon tax to curb climate change, said “The revised Waxman-Markey climate bill is too watered down to qualify as a positive step for avoiding catastrophic climate disruption.”
“Those weak reduction goals combined with large quantities of offsets would allow U.S. emitters to postpone substantial emissions reductions for at least another decade, according to Hansen. “The fundamental problem is that dirty fossil fuels are the cheapest energy,” he said. “We must increase the price of fossil fuels steadily and predictably so that efficiency and renewables can supplant fossil fuels.”
The new version of Waxman-Markey seems to reflect the opposite approach, giving industry free allowances, ostensibly to keep consumer prices down….