Waxman-Markey Comes to Washington

Waxmna-Markey climate and energy bill comes to Washington

With the 33 to 25-vote approval of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) of 2009 by the House Energy & Commerce Committee on May 21, the U.S. appears finally poised to move forward with  comprehensive climate legislation, the kind required to bring the country back from the brink of widespread CO2-induced disaster.  That is, if by the wishes of the Obama Administration, it passes the House and Senate later this year without being overly compromised by the powerful interests of Dirty Fuel.

Often referred to as “Waxman-Markey”, ACESA represents an impressive and ambitious effort by Chairman Henry A. Waxman to offer revolutionary environmental legislation, which is no small feat considering he only took over the Chairmanship from the less environmentally progressive Congressman John Dingell in November 2008.  And no less praise should be given to the bill’s co-sponsor, Congressman Edward J. Markey, Chairman of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

This bill marks the dawn of the clean energy age,” said Subcommittee Chairman Markey. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revive our economy and create millions of good-paying clean energy jobs. After months of hearings and discussions with my colleagues, I am pleased that we have produced a bill that has widespread support from all regions of the country.”

In light of it’s massive 932-page scope, Committee Democrats even hired a speed reader in case of the need to read the entire bill into the record if so required by Republican members, a task that could be done in a fraction of the time possible if read by a clerk.  According to the Committee Discussion Draft Summary of the Bill, the Act is comprised of a range of approaches that the country must implement if we are to mitigate our contribution to the negative effects of global warming, which include:

  1. A “clean energy” title that promotes renewable sources of energy and carbon capture and sequestration technologies, low-carbon transportation fuels, clean electric vehicles, and the smart grid and electricity transmission
  2. An “energy efficiency” title that increases energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, including buildings, appliances, transportation, and industry
  3. A “global warming” title that places limits on the emissions of heat-trapping pollutants
  4. A “transitioning” title that protects U.S. consumers and industry and promotes green jobs during the transition to a clean energy economy.”

The specific categories and subcategories are as follows:

  • Title I (Clean Energy): Renewable Energy, Carbon Capture and Sequestration, Clean Fuels and Vehicles, Smart Grid and Electricity Transmission, Partnering with the States, Federal Purchases of Renewable Electricity 
  • Title II (Energy Efficiency): Building Energy Efficiency, Manufactured Homes, Appliance Energy Efficiency, Transportation Efficiency, Utilities Energy Efficiency, Industrial Energy Efficiency, Public and Federal Energy Efficiency 
  • Title III (Reducing Global Warming Pollution): Global Warming Pollution Reduction Program, Supplemental Pollution Reductions, Offsets, Banking and Borrowing, Strategic Reserve, Carbon Market Assurance and Oversight, Additional Greenhouse Gas Standards, Clean Air Act Exemptions 
  • Title IV (Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy): Ensuring Domestic Competitiveness, Green Jobs and Worker Transition, Consumer Assistance, Exporting Clean Technology, Adapting to Global Warming

Many environmental organizations such as NRDC, EDF, National Audubon Society and Sierra Club see ACESA as a solid step in the right direction, even if they remain cautious that advocates in Congress and the environmental community must fight on to ensure its original high standards are intact upon final passage later this year.  On the organization’s Switchboard Blog, NRDC President, Frances Beinecke says that the bill “… validates the work NRDC has put into partnerships like US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) and the Blue-Green Alliance of environmentalists and labor unions.”  Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, states in a May 21 press release that “This bill puts the U.S. on the path to slash the carbon emissions that cause global warming 80 percent by 2050, a signal accomplishment necessary to preserve the planet for future generations.”  And Chris Mooney, author of “The Republican War on Science”, cites the strong argument from physicist and climate expert Joseph Romm, when he implores Congress to work hard to strengthen what represents the best chance at major meaningful climate legislation before the UN Climate Change Conference in December, rather than scrapping it entirely and returning to square one.

On the other side of this debate are a list of equally distinguished environmental groups and figures including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, Rainforest Action Network and others, who believe that in current form, the bill represents too much of a weak compromise due to the extraordinary counterforces brought by the interests of industry.  As Global Warming is Real Publisher Tom Schueneman writes, undue pressure from oil, gas, and coal lobbyists could be enough to derail if not demoralize (with the overwhelming force of hundreds of millions of dollars in influence) even the most determined efforts to implement a cap and trade program for carbon emissions.  It should be noted however, that Tom reports about the Germans’ experience, so it is easy to imagine the extent of pressure currently being brought to bear by the massive American “dirty fuel” industry on Capitol Hill.  According to environmental group, 1Sky, which is somewhat hopeful about the bill, these industries have outspent environmental lobbyists by 16 times, in the amount of $79 million!  If that doesn’t put the political hurdles before the bill in perspective, what does?

Although ultimately the future of this bill is unknown, it is helpful for those who want sensible, revolutionary, and progressive environmental legislation to succeed to heed the resounding words of Chairman Henry Waxman the day the bill was approved in Committee.  If his fellow representatives and senators heed them, they may offer more than just a ray of hope:

Today the Committee took decisive and historic action to promote America’s energy security and to create millions of clean energy jobs that will drive our economic recovery and long-term growth,” said Chairman Waxman.  “This bill, when enacted into law this year, will break our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation the world leader in clean energy jobs and technology, and cut global warming pollution.  I am grateful to my colleagues who supported this legislation and to President Obama for his outstanding leadership on these critical issues.”

Sources and Further Reading:

H.R. 2454 (American Clean Energy and Security Act)

House Energy and Commerce ACESA Discussion Draft Summary

Office of Henry A. Waxman

Office of Edward J. Markey

Blue Green Alliance

United States Climate Action Partnership

Climate Progress

NRDC Switchboard

Sierra Club Press Release

Discover Magazine

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