Friday, January 18, 2008

House Subcommittee Hearing Sets Stage For Climate Change Debate

Jan 17: The House Energy & Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, Chaired by Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA), held a hearing entitled, Administration Perspectives on United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali [See WIMS 1/2/08]. The meeting set the stage for what will likely be a contentious debate between Democrats and Republicans in the House in the coming months. House leaders have indicated they want a climate change bill vote by this summer. In the Senate, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), approved S. 2191, the Lieberman Warner Climate Security Act on December 5, 2007 [See WIMS 12/6/07]. The Senate bill was reported from Committee with an 11-8 vote that included all eight Democrats, two Independents, and one Republican, the cosponsor Senator Warner. The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill within the next few months.

The only witness for the hearing was James Connaughton, Chairman Council on Environmental Quality for the White House. Additionally, Chairman Boucher introduced the new Ranking Member of the Subcommittee Representative Fred Upton (R-MI). Representative Upton is a strong advocate for nuclear power and is against mandated CO2 limits. He says the solution must involve a global solution and a free market approach.

Representative Upton presented some extensive comments in his opening remarks. He said in part, "Emphasis must be placed on GLOBAL issue. While I feel strongly that addressing climate change is certainly important, I believe we must address this through a global voluntary framework that focuses on innovations in technology and efficiency rather than a pure government mandate. At the end of the day, we’ll need to demonstrate that the price paid – in both jobs and dollars – equates to some tangible environmental benefits to the American people. In my view, spending trillions of dollars and losing a countless number of jobs, to maybe alter temperatures by a tenth of a degree, while China and India continue to spew emissions is not the option that we’re looking for..."

Representative Upton said, "By the year 2030, our energy needs are going to grow by more than 50 percent." He indicated, "Just to stay even with these two zero emissions sources, we would need to build – by 2030 – over 50 new nuclear plants and more than 1,900 hydroelectric plants."

Members of the Subcommittee, including full Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI), indicated their displeasure and concern with the brief 1-page testimony prepared James Connaughton. One member asked if this was an indication that the Administration thought the Subcommittee was not important enough for them to prepare full testimony.

Connaughton's full written testimony included the following: "Mr. Chairman, thank you for inviting me to testify on the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference which took place last month in Bali, Indonesia. As my testimony, I am submitting the Bali Action Plan as agreed to by all parties attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of Parties.

"Additionally, I have included for the Committee a presentation which I delivered on December 12, 2007, at the U.S. Side Event in Bali, entitled, “Partnerships in Action: Energy Security, Clean Development, and Climate Change”. I have also attached additional technical presentations which describe the potential of technologies and some of the actions the U.S. has undertaken to date. These presentations were delivered at the U.S. Side Event by Alexander Karsner, Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; William Hohenstein, Director of USDA’s Global Change Program Office; and William Irving, Team Leader of EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

"Lastly, I am submitting the President’s remarks at the first Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, delivered on September 28, 2007, in Washington, DC. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify, and I look forward to responding to your questions."

Access a the hearing website for a link to the brief testimony document and a webcast of the hearing (
click here) [Note: the webcast is very instructional in setting the stage for upcoming U.S. climate change debate]. Access the a WIMS article on the Major Economies meeting with links to related documents (click here). Access the complete statement of Representative Upton (click here). Access a release from UNFCCC and a fact sheet on accomplishments (click here). Access the so-called Bali Action Plan (click here). Access details on all decisions adopted by the COP 13 and CMP 3 and related information (click here, scroll down). Access the U.S. Department of State COP 13 website for links to all releases and statements (click here). Access the UNFCCC COP13/MOP3 website for additional details (click here). Access the IPCC website for additional information including links to reports (click here). [*Climate]