Political Compromise Guts Climate Bill as House Vote Looms

Due for a vote on the House floor today, H.R. 2454, the marked up climate change bill proposed by Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey Jr. (D-MA), fails woefully in terms of meeting the CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets climate change scientists are pushing for. Not to mention failing to lay the foundation for transitioning to a less polluting, low carbon energy and industrial infrastructure, according to environmental group Friends of the Earth.
Initially watered down in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” has been weakened further in broader House negotiations as its sponsors have seen fit to acquiesce to the demands of House Democrats pushing for additional changes favorable to the oil and coal industries in order to increase its likelihood of passage.

Political Compromise Compromises H.R.2454
In addition to resetting the bar at a much lower level and weakening greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets well below that called for by climate change scientists in international negotiations, the bill would not require any actual US emissions reductions until 2030. Just as alarming, the revised climate bill would remove greenhouse gases from oversight and regulation by the EPA by removing them from the Clean Air Act, according to FoE.
The politically motivated compromises being made negate any chances the Waxman-Markey climate change bill will effectively address the potential risks and costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation, energy security, and clean energy/technology-driven economic growth both in the near and long-term, FoE asserts.
Passage in its current form would increase the risks and potential costs of climate change; weaken “green” economic stimulus, development and job creation, and neuter the ability of government to guide and regulate national energy policy, the environmental and social advocacy group contends.
The “We Can Do Better” Campaign
The following is a rundown of FoE’s analysis and criticism of H.R. 2454. The original .pdf version can be found here:
* Doesn’t solve the climate crisis. The bill does not reduce pollution rapidly enough to avoid the many dangerous impacts that will result from continued degradation of our atmosphere. The U.S. must reduce domestic emissions of heat-trapping gases at least 40 percent by 2020 to account for our fair share of the global emissions reductions that are required to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts. But due to weak targets, offsets, and other loopholes, this bill would not require any actual U.S. emissions reductions until 2030. That means that the bill ultimately fails to do what’s needed to avoid climate change impacts such as severe droughts, storms and floods, which will inflict pain and suffering on human communities, harm the economy, and undermine global security.
* Ties Obama EPA’s hands. The bill removes heat-trapping gases from key Clean Air Act protections, limiting the Obama administration’s ability to tackle climate change on its own.
* A missed opportunity to create jobs and strengthen the economy. The bill fails to make the U.S. a global clean energy leader. Indeed, analysts have found its Renewable Electricity Standard creates no more clean energy in the U.S. than would be created anyway over the next two decades. This failure to dramatically ramp up clean energy means fewer jobs in manufacturing and other green industries – that while the rest of the world creates millions of green jobs, the U.S. will be left behind.
* Puts Wall Street in charge. The bill will create giant, volatile carbon markets dominated by the same Wall Street banks that brought us the current financial crisis. Congress has yet to reform and improve regulation of the financial sector, but Wall Street’s 130 climate lobbyists have already put loopholes into this bill that would undermine the integrity of the carbon markets it creates.
* “Offset” loopholes. The bill’s massive “offset” pollution loopholes mean the U.S. is unlikely to meet even the limited pollution reduction targets included in the bill, while making unfair demands on other countries to reduce their emissions so we don’t have to. These loopholes also threaten carbon market stability and will retard domestic job creation.
* Polluter payouts make the bill a lobbyist’s dream come true. The bill gives pollution permits worth hundreds of billions away for free to polluting industries, including Big Oil and Dirty Coal.
* Undermines U.S. global leadership. The bill prevents the U.S. from being a global leader. It undercuts our ability to take a constructive seat at the table in talks aimed at producing an international climate treaty by under-funding critical investments that can spread clean energy around the world and assist vulnerable communities as they prepare for climate change impacts.
The FoE has launched a Web-driven political action ad campaign dubbed “We Can Do Better” to thwart the bill’s passage and urge lawmakers to craft and pass a bill actually worthy of its name.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: huginn.muggin@gmail.com

7 responses

  1. But what about the argument that a start–however anemic–is better than nothing? I heard Larry Schweiger, president of the National Wildlife Fund, speak a couple weeks ago, and he put it in terms of an interesting analogy. If you want to get a car to turn down a certain road, it’s much easier to turn the steering wheel in that direction when it’s already moving a little bit than if it’s standing dead still. That image really resonated with me in terms of Waxman-Markey, legislation I’ve been pretty critical and skeptical about as well.

  2. I agree with these commenters– I hesitate to make the perfect enemy of the good.
    I’m glad that Andrew has the opportunity to voice his support for FOE through 3P, as we respect all points of view, but I wouldn’t say that this position reflects the 3P editorial perspective of critical optimism that we generally stand for.
    I personally think that this is a historic piece of legislation, despite it’s holes. Can you imagine this even being on the table for conversation 18 months ago?
    Stay tuned for a piece on Greenpeace, W-M, and what we have to say about it later today!

  3. I am very concerned with the amendments and concessions in the bill, but I generally agree with the commenters here as well. Failure to pass something, even flawed, will have consequences reaching into the Copenhagen talks this December. If the international community sees that the U.S. still can’t pass any sort of comprehensive climate legislation, then hope for an international agreement is significantly challenged.
    As one German official from the Emissions Trading Authority told us last month, don’t expect a perfect outing the first time around – it’s best to get started. Too much time in the U.S. has already been wasted.
    To expect a “perfect” bill at this juncture is simply unrealistic.

  4. Indeed. Why the negativity? There’s a reason that environmentalism, in general, lost favor in the US – negativity and constant finger waving. I agree that things could be way better with this bill, but my god, we’ve got to take something rather than nothing.

  5. I am actually the most concerned about the provision removing CO2 from the Clean Air Act–I was actually unaware of this clause. I know a lot of great people at the EPA who have essentially said, “If Congress doesn’t legislate CO2, we will regulate it.” I am less concerned by the specific reduction goals, etc. because I have a lot of confidence in today’s EPA. Removing CAA protection is the portion that gives me the biggest pause.

  6. Has anyone been listening to the debate carried on C-span? This is a bill with all the amendments that we absolutely do not want. It would cripple our economy and raise the cost of living. Like so many of the bills enacted by our Congress, what began as a good idea has gone woefully astray.

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