Over the weekend, the Senate buckled down, putting in a late-night session on Saturday before heading out of town for a few weeks. Nice work, if you can get it/are a millionaire.
One of the pressing issues the body addressed: whether or not American airlines would be subject to the European Union’s newly implemented fees on aircraft greenhouse gas emissions. The E.U.’s proposal, announced earlier this month, would require airlines that fly to and from E.U. countries to participate in an existing cap-and-trade system, granting each a certain level of CO2 output per year. If an airline exceeds that amount, it would have to buy an allowance.
The Senate, you will not be surprised to learn, decided that American airlines should be exempt. From the Wall Street Journal:
The Senate bill would allow the U.S. transportation secretary to prohibit the country’s carriers from complying with the EU plan. An amendment added to the Senate bill—which passed unanimously—would require that prohibition to be reconsidered if the EU amends its plan or the U.S. introduces its own measures—or if progress is made through [the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization].
The trade group representing the largest U.S. airlines on Saturday welcomed the Senate vote, having unsuccessfully tried to block the EU’s move in court and repeatedly called on the Obama administration to take legal action through ICAO.
That’s not the funny part. This is the funny part.
Opponents of the EU plan claim it distorts competition and should be ditched in favor of a global effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from aircraft brokered through the [ICAO].
Ha ha, yes, that’s right. The problem is that this isn’t far-reaching enough. That’s why the Senate decided to act unanimously in opposition to it. Nothing to do with the airline industry lobbying officials to the tune of $7.7 million this session. Politico explains why this was a victory for the environment: because the Environmental Defense Fund thinks this puts pressure on the ICAO. There you go, enviros. You win. Politico says so. And if you don’t believe Politico, the always-green House passed a similar bill last year. So you know this is good for the environment. The White House has refused to say whether President Obama would sign the bill, but he’s given indications that he would.
In a few years’ time, when we have a blanket international cap-and-trade system for every airline flight, we’ll seek out the noble senators who drew a hard line on this issue and thank them. Once we track them down, anyway. They probably won’t be in D.C.