Monday, May 18, 2009

Energy Committee May Vote on Climate LegislationThis Week

The climate change legislation being debated on Capitol Hill is shifting every day, but here's the latest:

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D), is considering a climate change bill called the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which includes a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions and a renewable energy standard that would require the U.S. to get a certain percentage of its energy from renewable sources.

The 932-page bill has been debated up and down by Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, taking action to cut climate change emissions, get us off foreign oil and further spur a renewable energy market has turned into a bitter partisan debate, with Republicans arguing that it will hurt the economy and Democrats arguing that standing still will hurt the economy further. Chairman Waxman - who believes he has enough votes to pass it out of his committee - put it this way:

"Our economy is suffering, we are squandering billions of dollars to feed our addiction on foreign oil and our environment is overheating...I believe we'll have a majority to report the bill out."
The bill has had many makeovers, but today its details include a requirement to cut climate change emissions 17 percent from 2005 level by 2020 by using a cap-and-trade system. It also includes a renewable energy standard that would require large electric utilities to get 15% of their energy from renewables by 2020 and save 5% of their energy via energy efficiency improvements by 2020.

If a state governor determines that the state’s utilities cannot meet the 15% renewable mandate, the governor may decrease it to 12% and increase the energy efficiency improvement mandate to 8%.

This renewable energy standard has been cut way back from the original requirement of 25% renewables by 2025 (which President Obama called for). In fact, wind power interests like GE Energy, Vestas Americas, Gamesa and the American Wind Energy Association sent a letter to the Energy and Commerce Committee that stated:

“We are concerned that the significantly lower renewable targets currently being discussed, as compared to proposals from President Obama, Chairman Bingaman and Chairman Markey, will severely blunt the signal for companies like ours that manufacture turbines and components to invest billions of dollars to expand production and our workforces in the U.S. America is on the verge of losing the wind manufacturing industry to Asia and Europe. There is significant international trade in wind turbines and the competition to host this industry is intense. America trails its competition in passing stable renewable energy policy commitments.

If the bill is voted out of Waxman's committee this week, it would move on to various other House committees. Democrats want a full House vote on the bill by August, after which the bill would move on to the Senate, where it would face another fight. President Obama wants to see progress on climate legislation by December, when he will meet with other world leaders in Copenhagen to discuss global agreements on climate change.

via Reuters, Van Ness Feldman Law Firm and the American Wind Energy Association

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