As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Battle Begins On Climate Legislation

Today is the 39th anniversary of Earth Day, which drew 20 million people to events in 1970. Without the Internet. Or Fox News promotion. And the House of Representatives used the anniversary to fire the starting gun for major climate change legislation:

Congress is launching the “mother of all climate weeks” on Tuesday, with a monster hearing designed to push forward global warming legislation.

Fifty-four witnesses will testify on climate change legislation in three full days before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, topped off with an appearance from Al Gore on Friday. The committee will also hear from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and high-profile representatives from business and the environmental movement.

As I noted last week, Chairman Henry Waxman seeks to get the bill out of committee by Memorial Day. The hearings are taking place right now. The efforts for legislation got a major boost with an EPA report suggesting that the consumer cost would be far less than the claims being made by Republicans.

With Republican critics of the bill zeroing in on the cost to consumers and industry, a pivotal issue will be how to mitigate the bill’s economic impact. Under a cap-and-trade plan, overall emissions would be limited and polluters would be issued emission allowances, which they then could buy and sell.

An EPA analysis released to the committee on Tuesday found that the price of emission allowances would be less than projected for a similar bill the Senate debated but did not pass last summer. Allowance prices would range from $13 to $17 per ton of emissions in 2015, and $74 to $96 per ton in 2050, the EPA reported. Last year, the agency projected that the Senate bill would cost $20 to $50 per ton in 2015 and $160 to $200 per ton in 2050.

The agency said forecasts have changed in part due to lower projected growth in gross domestic product, which means industrial output of greenhouse gases will be lower than expected.

“With lower forecast emissions, the allowance prices necessary to achieve the goals set in the discussion draft are also reduced,” the EPA said.

The EPA also said the bill’s average annual cost per household would be between $98 and $140, leading proponents to say the bill would have a relatively modest impact.

“When you combine this analysis with cost-saving measures from updated energy efficiency measures and weatherization, the savings will pile up for consumers,” Markey said in a statement.

In addition, the benefit to energy companies, having the certainty of a cap and carbon pricing, so they can manage their businesses and support the kind of innovation needed to get under the caps, would actually provide long-run savings as well, apart from mitigating the worst effects of climate change (which would cost lots of money).

Of course, Republicans will continue to smear and fear about consumer costs, even though revenues from cap and trade can roll back to ratepayers. In fact, the Republican opposition to this bill represents throwing a bunch of junk at the wall to see what sticks. They are vacillating between denying the science and focusing on costs, and the result is muddled.

The Senate clearly wants to follow the House's lead, and this will be a long process. But in the meantime, there are steps the Administration can take to improve our energy outlook, like allowing offshore wind turbines; and the looming EPA regulations under the Clean Air Act can work as a vice to force the Republicans to either allow a cap and trade system or get steamrolled by the executive branch.

It's exciting to see a very real transition to a new energy economy, and the hard work of the policymakers committed to moving forward. I urge you to watch these hearings.

...This is awesome from new Obama Administration advisor Van Jones.

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