Monday, June 29, 2009

The Energy Bill Passes the House

mitch-739075 Not by much – 219-212 – with a fair number of Democrats voting against it and all but eight Republicans likewise. But it passed. The Senate has a parallel bill wending through committee that is now scheduled for a September vote, so we’ll have to wait to see if, and in what form, this bill passes. But there’s been plenty of reaction to it at this stage.

John J. Castellani, President of Business Roundtable: “The bill ignores the role that oil and natural gas must play in the transition to a low-carbon future, as well as nuclear energy’s central role in reducing America’s carbon footprint. To achieve the GHG reductions called for in the bill, we not only need to use energy more efficiently, but also must deploy a balanced, comprehensive portfolio of new low-energy technologies.”

The Associated Press (H. Josef Hebert): The House-passed bill contains provisions to make it easier to get loan guarantees and expands the nuclear industry's access to loans for reactor construction. An Environmental Protection Agency analysis that shows modest future costs from a low-climate energy world assumes a significant expansion of nuclear energy. The Senate could add more incentives for the nuclear industry.

President Obama: You look at the constituent parts of this bill -- not only a framework for cap and trade, but huge significant steps on energy efficiency, a renewable energy standard, huge incentives for research and development in new technologies, incentives for electric cars, incentives for nuclear energy, clean coal technology. This really is an unprecedented step and a comprehensive approach.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.), Minority Leader, on Fox News Sunday: Well, I hope it won't pass the Senate. The president himself said last year that it will lead to skyrocketing electricity increases. Think of it as a light switch tax. I think the president's right. I think it's going to lead to significant increases in electricity across America in an effort to try to deal with a global problem.

If we do have a global warming problem, and many people believe we do, we need to target it on a global basis. The way to get at it is to build more nuclear power plants which don't have a CO2 emission problem and to develop the kind of technology to burn coal cleanly.

Friends of the Earth (President Brent Blackwelder): It’s a shame we can’t celebrate the passage of the first-ever bill intended to reduce global warming pollution. Unfortunately, big oil, dirty coal, corporate agribusiness, and Wall Street lobbyists neutered this bill and it now fails to deliver the transformational change that is needed. This bill will produce nowhere near the emissions reductions that are needed to solve global warming, and—astonishingly—it will eliminate existing EPA authority to fight pollution from coal-fired power plants. [We’re actually surprised nuclear escaped their rogues gallery.]

U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Senior Vice President of Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs William Kovacs): Despite the good intentions of this bill's drafters to transition the U.S. to a 'clean, green economy,' H.R. 2454 [the number given the energy bill] still suffers from a large number of flaws. It fails to ensure that enough renewable or alternative energy sources, which include not only wind and solar but also nuclear and coal with carbon capture and sequestration, will be brought online to compensate for the fossil energy that will be de-selected by the bill's aggressive caps.

Naturally, we’re cherry picking – if we went with environmentalists or business types exclusively, it could get pretty gruesome. And even from this selection, you may be surprised that the bill passed at all.

Pass – the House bill – or fail – as McConnell foretells for the Senate – and you’ve still got a useful tool for Copenhagen:

"The passing of this legislation will give good encouragement for Copenhagen negotiations as it shows that the US is starting to move on climate action," ACF executive director Don Henry said in a statement on Saturday.

"It is a reminder that we need to get cracking and pass good climate laws in Australia; otherwise we will be left behind."

And:

The climate bill being debated today [last Friday] in the U.S. House represents a “sea change” and “points to the fact that the United States [is] very serious on climate,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to the White House this morning.

See? If an eventual failure of the bill indicates a desire to see the rest of the world get on board – see McConnell again – it’ll still have been a valuable exercise.

Senator Mitch McConnell. Not sure if he’s signaling peace or two. (NEI’s reaction to the House energy bill is here, by the way.)

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