I’m not buying the Republican bromide that passage of a revolutionary energy bill is nothing but a tax increase. Of course it will cost money for the transformation just as my first Apple computer cost $3,300 in the early 1980s and about a third of that in today’s market
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the average American household would pay an additional $175 a year in energy costs by 2020 as a result of the reform bill, while the poorest households would receive rebates that would lower their annual energy costs by $40. President Barack Obama said the cost increase amounts to the cost of a postage stamp per day.
The House bill’s passage Friday, by 219 to 212, with 44 Democrats voting against it, also established a marker for the United States when international negotiations on a new climate change treaty begin later this year.
This is an extremely watered-down bill and God only knows how it will end up after the Senate gets its hooks in it.
Before we run a muck about its political overtones, let’s first look at what it purports to do.
— Reduce greenhouse gases by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 through a cap-and-trade program.
— Limit emissions from major industrial sources. Emissions from agriculture would be excluded from the cap.
— Control carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and limiting six other greenhouse gases.
— Allow companies to meet emission-limiting targets by investing in offset projects such as tree planting and forest protection.
— Require electric utilities to produce at least 12 percent of their power from renewable sources such wind and solar energy by 2020, and require as much as 8 percent in energy efficiency savings.
— Impose tighter performance standards on new coal-fired power plants and provide $1 billion a year in development money for capturing carbon dioxide from such plants.
— Establish standards that require new buildings be 30 percent more energy efficient by 2012 and 50 percent more efficient by 2016.
— Protect consumers from rising energy costs by giving rebates and credits to low-income households.
Republican leaders called the legislation a national energy tax and predicted that those who voted for the measure would pay a heavy price at the polls next year. “No matter how you doctor it or tailor it,” said Rep. Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, “it is a tax.” Only eight Republicans voted for the bill, which runs to more than 1,300 pages.
President Obama on Saturday urged senators to show courage and approve a bill he can sign.
“My call to every senator, as well as to every American, is this,” he said. “We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past. Don’t believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth.”
Obama said the bill would create jobs, make renewable energy profitable and decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil. “It will spur the development of low-carbon sources of energy — everything from wind, solar and geothermal power to safer nuclear energy and cleaner coal,” he said.
I’ve heard the arguments and will hear more when the Senate sinks its fangs in it and — honestly — I do not know whether it will work. It is, however, a step long needed in the right direction.
But the legislation, a patchwork of compromises, falls far short of what many European governments and environmentalists have said is needed to avert the worst effects of global warming.
While some environmentalists enthusiastically supported the legislation, others, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, opposed it. Industry officials were split, with the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers opposing the bill and some of the nation’s biggest corporations, including Dow Chemical and Ford, backing it.
I agree with those House members who expressed concern about the market to be created in carbon allowances, saying it posed the same risks as those in markets in other kinds of derivatives. Regulation of such markets would be divided among the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. That, to me, is a recipe for a turf war causing ceaseless delays and confusion.
I have my reservations. It reminds me of an old adage about buying a pig in a poke.
Cross posted on The Remmers Report
Jerry Remmers worked 26 years in the newspaper business. His last 23 years was with the Evening Tribune in San Diego where assignments included reporter, assistant city editor, county and politics editor.