Muckraker: Grist on Politics

In his first hearing as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) on Thursday pledged to act “quickly and decisively” on climate change, and said he wants a bill ready to go by Memorial Day recess in May.

“Our environment and our economy depend on congressional action to confront the threat of climate change and secure our energy independence,” Waxman said. “U.S. industries want to invest in a clean energy future, but uncertainties about whether, when, and how greenhouse-gas emissions will be reduced is deterring these vital investments.”

But not everyone is on board. Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said there are “many different views on this committee” as to whether climate change is caused by humans.

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The committee heard from representatives of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership about its new blueprint for a cap-and-trade climate bill. President-elect Barack Obama and Waxman have both called for cap-and-trade programs, though considerably stronger ones than USCAP proposed.

But some committee member suggested that cap-and-trade is not the way to go. Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) said he prefers a carbon tax, though it may not be as politically palatable. “It’s probably the cleanest and most transparent thing Congress can do is to put a tax on something we shouldn’t be putting in our atmosphere,” said Green. His fellow Texan, Republican ranking member Joe Barton, also indicated that a carbon tax might be preferable to cap-and-trade.

Today’s hearing illustrated that despite the leadership change in the committee — climate advocate Waxman replacing automaker-friendly John Dingell — it’s going to be a tussle to move climate legislation this year. “Be prepared for a battle,” warned Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

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