What Should Happen to the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill?

The Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454), passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today, is hailed by many as the most important piece of climate change legislation ever. Yet it’s still receiving a surprising amount of opposition from environmentalists, mostly for it’s plentiful polluter permits, weak renewable electricity goals, and low carbon emission reduction targets . Greenpeace outright rejects the bill, claiming that it “sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets” and warning that “We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.” Friends of the Earth also warns against the bill, saying that in its current form, Waxman-Markey could actually increase the risks of climate change. But I still think the bill should be passed in the Senate. Here’s why.

The Waxman-Markey bill is undeniably less than perfect, but it’s still necessary. As our own Tom Schueneman notes, failure to pass something will result in embarrassment for the United States during the Copenhagen climate talks this December. If international leaders see that we can’t pass climate change legislation, it will hinder the chances of an international agreement. Let’s be real–the United States is a big polluter, but it’s about to become small potatoes compared to developing countries like China and India. Right now, we just need to set an example. We can work on improved legislation later.
It’s also important to remember that our future doesn’t necessarily rest on the decisions of the federal government. States and cities have autonomy, and many are using it to pass strict renewable energy standards and feed-in tariffs. And not every private corporation is opposed to lowering carbon emissions and improving renewable energy, either. Remember: cleantech is trendy. Every day I read a new press release about how one company or another has drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions and piled solar panels on their roofs–not to mention heavy hitters like Cisco, Verizon, and IBM that are betting the big bucks on smart grid projects. Just as many companies engage in greenwashing, but it’s heartening to know that some are working on our climate problems without government prodding.
Perhaps most importantly, we should acknowledge that the Waxman-Markey bill isn’t the end of the line. Obama still has over 3 years in office, and judging by the gargantuan clean tech provisions in the recent stimulus bill, it’s doubtful that Waxman-Markey will be his last word on renewable energy and CO2 emissions. So the bill isn’t Greenpeace’s pie in the sky dream–that’s OK. It’s something, and we can’t afford to have nothing.

4 responses

  1. I find myself shocked to admit that I am siding with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth on this one. Wow! Never thought that would occur.

    When it comes to this particular climate legislation, bad is worse than nothing. In its current form, WM includes far too many giveaways to large polluters for there to be any possibility of getting major changes later. The companies will become rapidly addicted to the gifts and defend them with all of their political power.

    Polluting our common atmosphere might be inevitable using current technology, but it should come with a cost that encourages the polluter to minimize the amount of waste that is dumped. The government should serve as a pass through fee collector – the atmosphere is owned by everyone with a set of lungs and a right to life since breathing is the most basic life function. Therefore, each one of us should get an equal share of the waste dumping fees (okay, call it a tax, I don’t care) to spend as we desire.

    Poor people will pay far less because they often walk to work or take public transit, live in small homes with less lighting, heating and entertainment devices, eat less food and buy fewer goods. They will, however, share in the effect of cleaner air and water and in the collected waste fees for those inevitable emissions.

    Of course, atomic fission, my favorite technology, the one I have invested a lot of time and money to promote will benefit. Guess that makes me a vested interest and a shill, but names can never hurt me.

    By the way, when lots of well established polluters line up in favor of a bill, you should get suspicious and start covering your wallet. When the marketing types begin touting their greenness, you should get really suspicious and dig a bit deeper into their economic motives.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights
    Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast

    “We’re thrilled that Congress has finally caught up with science and the American people in recognizing the need to switch on clean energy. Our future is now looking more like the Jetsons and less like the Flintstones.
    “This vote was a major hurdle, and we’ve cleared it. President Obama can walk into the G8 summit of world leaders in Italy next week with his head held high. Now we have momentum to move and improve legislation in the Senate and put it on President Obama’s desk so he can go to December’s international summit in Copenhagen with the full backing of the Congress and the American people.

  3. Skyline Solar hopes to achieve grid parity within the next 18 months. According to research by Clean Edge, solar power and conventional electricity sources will reach a “crossover” point by 2015. In other words, electricity from the sun will be cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels.
    One company, Skyline Solar, doesn’t want to wait until 2015. Management hopes to achieve grid parity within the next 18 months with its patented High Gain Solar (HGS) system.
    “King Coal” and “big Oil”. The honey moon is almost over.

  4. Pingback: EarthNews » Archive » Thoughts on the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill

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