Friday, June 26, 2009

The Waxman-Markey Bill Faces Congress

vc53 Today sees the vote in the House on the Clean Energy and Security Act, aka Waxman-Markey aka the climate change bill, likely to be a very near thing on a very tight vote margin. As you might imagine, this is last ditch time for those who want the bill and those who don’t.

Greenpeace says no:

Since the Waxman-Markey bill left the Energy and Commerce committee, yet another fleet of industry lobbyists has weakened the bill even more, and further widened the gap between what Waxman-Markey does and what science demands. As a result, Greenpeace opposes this bill in its current form.

Which sounds to us like Greenpeace’s lobbyists need a good talking-to.

Heritage’s Ben Lieberman says no:

Inflicting economic pain is what this is all about. That is how the ever-tightening emissions targets will be met.

Well, it probably isn’t about inflicting pain. The goal would seem to be to avoid inflicting pain.

The New York Times is going for yes:

The bill has shortcomings. But we believe that it is an important beginning to the urgent task of averting the worst damage from climate change. Approval would show that the United States is ready to lead and would pressure other countries to follow. Rejection could mean more wasted years and more damage to the planet.

Interestingly, the Times looks at the bill on a more global basis. A lot of the no’s see their opposiition more local terms.

The Washington Post tries yes, but:

Even if it passes today, Waxman-Markey is just a first step. With a flood of amendments to the House bill expected today and fierce battles to come in the Senate, the debate over how to design this fundamental shift in the American economy remains wide open.

We should know later today.

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North_Carolina_State_University2 North Carolina State University is getting $5.9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to conduct research on improving nuclear energy production and management.

And why?

“Energy researchers at N.C. State work hard to find more efficient and effective ways to generate and deliver energy to millions of people across the country,” said Louis A. Martin-Vega, dean of the College of Engineering. “These seven nuclear energy research awards are a tribute to the outstanding quality of our engineering faculty and will significantly enhance N.C. State's leadership role in providing solutions to the nation’s energy challenges.”

There are 71 of these grants. We congratulate NCSU and every other research outlet and school that receives them. Story here.

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tarmar08 Don Safer is board chairman of the Tennessee Environmental Council. He has a post up at The Tennessean’s blog that is, from first word to last, completely false:

Concerning letter writer Mr. Haupt's comments: Mother Earth will not be thanking us, unless increased genetic mutations, birth defects and cancer are her way of thanking us for the increased radiation on the planet. Radiation causes all of these tragedies.

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen nuclear pushback so bluntly bankrupt of viable arguments. Read and marvel.

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(To be fair, TEC is sponsoring a streambank restoration at Jerry Erwin Park in Spring Hill this Saturday. By all means, drop by and help. We’ve done this ourselves, so we can tell you this: you’ll get wet and dirty, but happy and satisfied.)

4 comments:

Stewart Peterson said...

Here's my question: what's going to stop the people who just got done hosing the stock market from creating a speculative bubble in emissions permits?

Kirk Sorensen said...

I can't believe that I find myself in agreement with Greenpeace, but in this case they're right--this bill is trash and I hope it dies.

We need to do what Dr. Hansen advocates--a FULLY refunded carbon tax or an associated reduction in payroll taxes.

perpeterson said...

Kirk,

I'm pretty sure that this is a problem where incremental, evolutionary change is the most practical approach.

Our experience with sulpher emissions is that it took very little regulatory push to achieve a large reduction, because industry was very clever to identify low-cost approaches to achieve the goal.

The same applies to carbon emissions in the U.S. We are on the verge of completely changing our approach to producing energy, and what we need is a technology-neutral policy that says that technologies with low carbon emissions will be more profitable. This is much better than having Congress regulate the technical solution (e.g., renewable portfolio standards).

So I hope the House bill emerges, in the end, as U.S. policy.

-Per

Stewart Peterson said...

Sulfur emissions can be mitigated without shutting down the offending power plant. The fossil fuel people talk a good game with sequestration, but the problem with CO2 is orders of magnitude harder.

A very easy, low-cost way to mitigate CO2 emissions is to do it the California way: create such a hostile business climate that your remaining industry either is put out of business or leaves. Then shut down the power plants that were providing electricity to those industries and claim the savings as a sound environmental policy--while importing the products they once made from China.

"Incremental, evolutionary change" is great when it's scalable and when you're incenting the right behavior. This bill does neither. It isn't a debate between cap and trade advocates and people who demand overnight results--we'd get a lot better results from a 25-year phaseout of coal-fired power plants, a ban on new fossil fuel-burning power plants, and a corresponding 25-year phase-in of motor fuels synthesized from coal (the process facilities, of course, would have to use clean heat for this to work). We'd get a 30% reduction in CO2 emissions while making the United States a petroleum products exporter and without putting one coal miner out of work--and it doesn't specify a technical solution.

If you're a policymaker and you have a policy goal that is in the proper range of governmental action, it doesn't make any sense to conceal it. Define the action you want, take input from stakeholders, come up with a mutually beneficial framework for this action, and specify what that framework is through legislation. Regulation doesn't need to be a choice between vagueness and socialism.