House Democrats Introduce Cap-and-Trade, ‘Clean Energy’ Bill
March 31, 2009House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a bill that addresses clean energy, energy efficiency, "global warming," and green jobs. It includes a cap and trade program -- a drain on productivity, critics say -- and it ensures "a continuing place for coal in our nation's energy future."
The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) addresses clean energy, energy efficiency, “global warming,” and green jobs. It includes a cap and trade program -- a drain on productivity, critics say -- and it ensures “a continuing place for coal in our nation’s energy future.”
Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee said the bill will create jobs, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and combat global warming. Or, as committee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) put it, “We will create jobs by the millions, save money by the billions, and unleash energy investment by the trillions.”
Hearings on the bill will begin the week of April 20.
In a letter to President Barack Obama last week, Reps. Markey, Henry Waxman (Calif.), John Dingell (Mich.), and Rick Boucher (Va.) -- all members of the Energy and Commerce Committee -- said one of the goals of their bill is to lift the nation out of recession. They admitted that “uncertainty” has “frozen” the private sector:
“Our power companies are caught in a dilemma: they are reluctant to invest in old polluting technologies because they know that tougher regulations are inevitable, but they can’t invest in new, cleaner technologies until they know what Congress is going to require,” the Democrats wrote to Obama on March 27.
Likewise, automobile manufacturers and oil companies want to know “what the ground rules will be” so they can plan "sensible investments."
The bill introduced on Tuesday includes the following provisions:
-- Requires retail electricity suppliers to meet a certain percentage of their load with electricity generated from renewable resources (wind, biomass, solar, geothermal);
-- Invests in “new clean energy technologies.” One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Boucher, comes from Virginia coal country and is a firm supporter of clean-coal technology, which does not exist yet. The bill would speed up the availability of technology that reduces greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and injecting underground the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants.
-- Establishes a new, low-carbon transportation fuel standard to promote advanced biofuels and other clean transportation fuels.
-- Authorizes federal agencies to enter into long-term contracts to purchase renewable energy.
-- Promotes energy efficiency in new buildings by providing federal training and funding to states that adopt advanced building efficiency codes. (Also authorizes funding for retrofitting existing commercial and residential buildings.)
-- Provides rebates to low-income families residing in pre-1976 manufactured homes. Those rebates can be applied toward purchases of new Energy Star-rated manufactured homes.
-- Requires states to establish goals for reducing global warming pollution from the transportation sector (traffic) and requires large metropolitan planning organizations to submit transportation plans (mass transit) to meet those goals.
Cap and trade
The bill’s global warming provisions are modeled closely on the recommendations of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), a coalition of electric utilities, oil companies, automobile manufacturers, other industries and environmental activists.
-- Requires electric utilities, oil companies, and large industrial sources to buy tradable federal permits, called “allowances,” for each ton of pollution emitted into the atmosphere. Companies that pollute beyond the limit set by the government can buy “offsets” from other companies.
-- Scales back the number of available allowances issued each year to ensure reductions in emissions;
-- Entities that emit less than 25,000 tons per year of CO2 equivalent are not covered by the cap-and-trade program.
-- The bill also directs the EPA to achieve additional reductions in global warming pollution by entering into agreements to prevent “international deforestation.”
Carbon market assurance and oversight
The bill provides for “strict oversight and regulation of the new markets for carbon allowances and offsets” – the new “carbon tax,” which critics say will be passed on to consumers.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will be charged with regulating the cash market in emission allowances and offsets.
And finally, the bill includes several provisions to promote green jobs:
One section authorizes the Secretary of Education to award grants to universities and colleges to develop curriculum and training programs that prepare students for careers in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other forms of climate change mitigation.
Under another section, the Secretary of Labor is authorized to carry out such training programs.