House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) and Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the energy and environment subcommittee, released a draft of a massive 648-page bill that tackles both climate and energy. “This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution,” Waxman claims. The “cap and trade” bill seeks to cut carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in the US, with an ultimate goal of reducing them to 83% of 2005 levels by 2050. It also requires 25% of electricity to come from renewable sources or energy efficiency measures by 2025.
What is raising eyebrows, however, are not the goals of the bill, but the fact that it only applies to the United States. Many opponents believe that without a global plan, US companies will simply pollute in other countries, then bring their products here for sale. It is also expected to raise energy prices, as power companies will have to purchase more carbon producing permits, and will pass the costs on to consumers.
Environmentalists are even questioning the terms of the bill. The “cap and trade” portion of the bill allows companies to simply purchase more permits so they can produce more emissions. In addition, companies are allowed to offset their emissions by making reductions elsewhere, not necessarily in the US. For example, a company could retrofit a power plant in China to offset higher emissions in the US.
The ability to simply purchase the permits and offset emissions by making changes in other countries leaves many thinking that this bill falls short of reaching its stated goals. Global warming reduction needs to be “global.” With the offset option, “the U.S. wouldn’t have to reduce its own emissions for more than 20 years,” says Steven Biel, global warming campaign director for Greenpeace USA.
Clearly this bill is going to create a lot of debate, both in government and the private sector. The bill is on a fast-track, scheduled for full committee mark-up by mid-May. Hopefully our lawmakers will hear these concerns and address them before it becomes law.