“Democrats to Relax House Emissions Bill” — now it gets a B or B- grade.
The first quote is the Washington Post headline today. Can’t argue with the overall message — although I would like to know what those “house emissions” are. Roll Call’s spin is more political, and thus more positive, “Waxman, Markey Announce Breakthrough on Climate Change Bill.” Or you can take Congress Daily AM’s spin, “Energy And Commerce Dems Reach Partial Deal On Climate And Energy.” Or Bloomberg’s, which cuts to the chase, “Democratic Climate Plan Would Trim CO2 Emissions 17%” by 2020.
The original Waxman-Markey has indeed been weakened. I’ll post the details as they become available, although most of the basics have already been reported. Certainly the bill is no longer a B+. I won’t be able to give it a final grade until we see all the details — I just learned something that wasn’t in any of the news stories, that the 5 to 4 “exchange” rate for offsets is gone. Dumb!
UPDATE: I’m informed that my original source was wrong and the 5 to 4 ratio is still in the bill! [“For every tonne of an entity’s compliance obligation that is covered by an offset, an entity must turn in 1.25 offsets“].
That said, I see nothing to change Al Gore’s overall judgment: “One of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in the Congress … has the moral significance” of 1960s civil rights legislation and Marshall Plan
The “good” news is that one of the most elements of the bill — the 2020 target — has been weakened less than earlier reports had suggested:
That first draft called for a 20 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Under the new agreement, the goal would be a 17 percent reduction.
The “bad” news is that renewable standard has been weakened and the energy efficiency resource standard appears to have been rolled in with it.
Also, the bill originally called for all states to get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Under the new version, the standard would be lowered to 15 percent by 2020, plus a requirement to reduce energy use by 5 percent by then through improved energy efficiency.
Bloomberg adds the following detail:
Governors of states unable to reach the renewable goal could lower it to 12 percent if their utilities demonstrate an 8 percent reduction in energy use.
Whether that is okay depends on how the final bill language is written. Frankly, as I’ll blog later today, we need efficiency standards now more than we need renewable standards.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., though, said he is fine with the compromise. “I can support it as it’s written,” he said. The definition of the sources that be used to meet the mandate was expanded from one approved by the House two years ago to include more biomass.
Well, that was inevitable — maybe they read Climate Progress (see Southern Company embraces the only practical and affordable way to ‘capture’ emissions at a coal plant today — run it on biomass and Another coal plant to be replaced by a ‘plant’ plant!). I’m gonna assume/hope that they go beyond requiring closed-loop 100% biomass and include cofiring (see “If Obama stops dirty coal, as he must, what will replace it? Part 2: An intro to biomass cofiring“).
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) said he believes there are enough votes in the committee for the renewables plan “if everything else works out,” Greenwire (subs. req’d) reported last night.
The “ugly” news — at least for many environmentalists and progressives — are the allocations to polluters:
Utilities would get 35 percent of the program’s allocations free. That should cover “90 percent of their needs,” said Representative G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat. “They will still have to purchase a portion” of the permits they would need to comply with the law, he said.
And E&E News (subs. req’d) reports this morning:
Trade-intensive industries, including pulp, paper, cement and steel, also would get free credits — 15 percent starting in 2014 but phasing out by 2 percent per year.
The deal is not completely done:
Members have not yet settled on a free allowances figure for petroleum refiners, though offers are between 1 percent and 5 percent. The six committee Democrats with petroleum refineries in their districts — Reps. Gene Greene and Charles Gonzalez of Texas, Mike Ross of Arkansas, Charles Melancon of Louisiana, Jim Matheson of Utah and Del. Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands — plan to meet with Waxman today on the issue.
In 2025, the bill would give the president authority to impose tariffs on carbon-intensive goods from developing countries.
Should the bill be better than this? Yes. Will it be weakened further in the Senate? I don’t know. Will team Obama step up their messaging — I assume so.
Anyway, the bottom line is about a B or B-, now, I think. But that grade is not on a curve.
Given what we are up against — rock-solid opposition and demagoguing by the entire Republican Party, well-funded opposition by polluters, and a status-quo media — it would be a stunning achievement for this country if this bill is passed out of committee, as Waxman believes it will be, and then passed out of the full House, as House leaders believe it will be.
To those who won’t support this, I guess I’d ask, what exactly is your politically attainable alternative?
And yes, I do expect that as the painful reality of climate change becomes more obvious, the future targets (and offset restrictions) will be tightened.