Monday, October 01, 2007

Analysis: Energy Bill Will Help; Emissions Cap Needed

Sep 27: Environmental Defense released a new analysis that it says shows that the energy bill currently before Congress could begin to curb the rapid rise in U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the next several decades. They said passage of such a bill would be a down payment on efforts to combat global warming. The analysis reveals, however, that even under optimistic scenarios, the bill would allow emissions to grow above today’s levels, underscoring the critical need for Congress to cap emissions if it is to reduce them to levels that scientists say are necessary to avoid irreversible damage to the climate.

In evaluating the potential benefits of the energy bill, Environmental Defense assumed that Congress would ultimately approve a bill that contained all the provisions that would have the greatest impact on emissions passed in the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate passed its version of H.R. 6 by a vote of 65-27 on June 22 [
See WIMS 6/22/07] and the House passed its version, H.R. 3221, on August 4, by a vote of 241 to 172 [See WIMS 8/6/07]. Environmental Defense said because many of the measures included within the bills grant a large degree of flexibility to the Administration in implementation, they evaluated two scenarios: a “more optimistic” scenario, in which the measures are fully implemented, and a “less optimistic” scenario, in which they are less so.

According to Environmental Defense, the results show that in the less optimistic scenario, emissions climb above today’s levels by 22 percent by 2030, while they would climb by only 4 percent under the more optimistic scenario. Without the energy bill, emissions would be expected to grow by 35 percent. Scientists say that to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change the world must dramatically reduce emissions below current levels. Earlier this year, a group of major companies representing a broad swath of American industry called on Congress to pass legislation reducing U.S. emissions by 60 to 80 percent below today’s levels by 2050.

Environmental Defense says that the next steps should involve Congress quickly passing the energy bill. They said if the bill contains the best provisions of the Senate and House versions and is vigorously implemented, it would slow the rapid escalation in GHG emissions. But, they say, Congress also should waste no time in producing legislation to cap emissions at levels that protect the climate, and should move ahead even while the energy bill is in Conference Committee. They conclude, "If the United States is to resume its appropriate role leading the world to reduce emissions and protect the environment, there is little time left to act."

On September 26, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chair of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee issued an update on the Conference Committee negotiations. According to Bingaman, Democratic and Republican committee staffs are continuing a bipartisan and bicameral exploration of the House (H.R.3221) and Senate (H.R.6) energy bills. The discussions are not to decide the destiny of any provisions, but rather to allow staffs to be educated as to the contents and back-stories of the various titles and sections in the two bills.

The meetings are alternating between House and Senate. The provisions being examined last week were: renewable fuels; carbon neutral government; green buildings; House provisions from the committees on Natural Resources, Education & Labor, Foreign Affairs, Small Business, Agriculture and Transportation & Infrastructure; CAFE; price gouging; climate R&D; loan guarantees; and miscellaneous. The talks were scheduled to wrap up by Friday, September 28. Bingaman said he believes that the bipartisan meetings are a necessary first step in producing a final comprehensive energy bill. He said continued bipartisanship will be essential to the process, and that addressing the nation’s energy challenges is a top priority for Congressional leaders and the American public.

Access a release from Environmental Defense (
click here). Access the complete 7-page analysis (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 3221 (click here). Access the update from Senator Bingaman (click here). [*Energy, *Climate]