Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) are releasing a discussion draft today of their long-awaited American Power Act. The bill is designed to appeal to a broad range of senators, including moderate Midwestern Democrats and coastal Republicans.
Recent events are a reminder of the urgency to act. The BP oil disaster is a signal flare warning us that we must reduce our oil use via investments in more efficient, cleaner energy technologies. The Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act jump-starts efforts to adopt comprehensive clean energy and climate polices that would cut oil use, increase security, reduce pollution, and create jobs.
A section-by-section summary of the bill was leaked late yesterday and includes a variety of measures that would provide benefits for everyday Americans.
The bill would boost employment by generating investments in the clean energy technologies of the future (Title I, Subtitle D). This means more jobs installing energy efficient windows, adding insulation, or manufacturing wind turbine parts. The bill would provide people with “Clean Energy Career Development” to prepare them to build and service these new technologies (Title IV, Subtitle B, Part I).
Clean up vehicles
The bill would make it easier for Americans to select and purchase cars powered partly or completely by electricity (Title I, Subtitle E, Part I). Public transportation would become more available, efficient, and affordable (Title I, Subtitle E, Part II-III). And big trucks and buses would run on natural gas, eliminating harmful air pollutants caused by burning diesel fuel (Title IV, Subtitle B, Part II, Subpart B). Using more homemade American fuels such as natural gas would allow us to keep more of our money in the United States and send less overseas to purchase oil.
Cut pollution from large emitters while helping consumers
The bill would create a program for the approximately 7,500 major carbon pollution emitters where they would have to have pollution allowances for each ton of their emissions. Nearly two-thirds of the revenue from the sale of these allowances would return to consumers to protect them from higher electricity rates (Title III, Subtitle A-B). A “Working Families Refundable Relief Program” would provide additional financial assistance to those who need it to offset higher prices for goods and services (Title III, Subtitle C).
The bill’s cost-containment measures would limit clean up costs and provide financial predictably for polluters so they can more easily budget the proper amount of revenue for pollution allowances. (Title II, Subtitle B, Part G, Section 790). These measures would also limit the likelihood of higher prices due to clean-up costs. The severe limits on trading pollution allowances would snuff any threats of market manipulation that could unnecessarily drive up allowance prices, which would increase costs to families. (Title II, Subtitle E).
Reduce risk of serious harm due to global warming
The bill would cut global warming pollution by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 percent by 2050 (Title II, Subtitle A, Part A). This would dramatically reduce the likelihood of serious harms linked to global warming.
- Florida or Gulf Coast residents would face fewer severe tropical storms that can destroy homes and property, and cost millions of tax dollars to clean up.
- Asthmatics would have fewer attacks due to lower smog levels. Less smog would enable seniors, children, and those suffering from respiratory ailments to spend more time outdoors.
- Northeasterners and Midwest residents would have fewer damages due to reduced flooding caused by heavy rainstorms.
New protection against offshore drilling dangers
Fisherman and people in the tourist industry would have their livelihoods protected from an offshore oil blowout. The bill would add protection from expanded offshore oil drilling for up to 75 miles offshore compared to just three miles today. If a study of a proposed offshore oil lease found that drilling could harm another state with an oil blowout, then the state’s legislature could vote to block oil development there (Title I, Subtitle B, Section 1205).
Boost farmers’ livelihood
Farmers could increase their income by receiving three additional paychecks. Leasing a small part of their land for a wind turbine would generate one check. The second could come from growing crops used for biofuels or biomass. And using farming practices that keep carbon in the soil—for “pollution offsets”—could provide the third check (Title IV, Subtitle B, Part III).
Few bills designed to clear the Senate’s 60-vote super majority requirement are perfect. Many such bills include compromises or provisions unappealing to its sponsors or supporters. The American Power Act is no exception. It includes several provisions that would do little to achieve clean energy benefits or would waste taxpayers’ money. Particularly egregious are the multiple, unnecessary subsidies for new nuclear power plants (Title I, Part I, Part III). But hopefully, longstanding nuclear advocates will support the American Power Act if it has these provisions.
The American Power Act reflects Sens. Kerry and Lieberman’s tremendous leadership and perseverance. This bill would truly reduce oil use, cut carbon pollution, invest in efficiency and clean energy technologies that create jobs, and protect consumers’ wallets. It is now incumbent upon President Obama and Senate leaders to bring together senators to craft and pass a comprehensive clean energy program that achieves its goals
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress
For more information, see:
Wonk Room: A First Look At The Details Of The Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act (CAP Action)