Friday, January 16, 2009

Waxman Promises House Climate Change Bill By Memorial Day

Jan 15: The House Energy & Commerce Committee, Chaired by Chaired by Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) held a held a major hearing focusing specifically on The U.S. Climate Action Partnership. The hearing presented the perspectives of members of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) [See WIMS 11/19/08], a coalition of over 30 businesses and nongovernmental organizations that has called for Congress to pass legislation to address the climate change threat.

The diverse set of witnesses testifying at the hearing included: James Mulva, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ConocoPhillips; Jim Rogers, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Duke Energy; Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund; John Rowe, President & Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation; Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, General Electric; Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council; David Crane, President and Chief Executive Officer, NRG Energy; Eileen Claussen, President, Pew Center on Global Climate Change; Peter Darbee, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, PG&E Corporation; Jeffry Sterba, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, PNM Resources; Preston Chiaro, Chief Executive - Energy and Minerals, Rio Tinto; George Nolen, President and Chief Executive Officer, Siemens Corporation; Mark Tercek, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Nature Conservancy; and Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute.

Chairman Waxman opened the meeting with a statement, saying in part, "Our environment and our economy depend on congressional action to confront the threat of climate change and secure our energy independence. U.S. industries want to invest in a clean energy future. But uncertainty about whether, when, and how greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced is deterring these vital investments. 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.

"Our job is to end this regulatory limbo and set our nation on a responsible path for reducing climate change and achieving energy independence. Our Committee will be acting quickly and decisively to reduce global warming and end our dependence on foreign oil. My goal is to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation in the Committee before the Memorial Day recess. . . That is an ambitious schedule, but it is an achievable one. We cannot afford another year of delay. As today's hearing will show, a consensus is developing that our nation needs climate legislation. . . Climate change, energy independence, and health care are going to be the Committee's highest priorities."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) commented on the Waxman hearing saying, "Chairman Waxman has set an aggressive timetable for action to reduce global warming and our dependence on foreign oil. I share his sense of urgency and his belief that we cannot afford another year of delay. The House is fortunate to have the leadership of Chairman Waxman and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey on climate and energy issues; their knowledge of these issues and commitment to finding the right solutions is unmatched. They will build on the work of Chairman Emeritus John Dingell and former Subcommittee Chair Rick Boucher on energy independence. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House, our colleagues in the Senate, and President Obama to halt the grave threat of climate change."

At the hearing, USCAP) unveiled a comprehensive and detailed set of integrated policy recommendations for developing legislation that would create an environmentally effective and economically sustainable national climate protection program. They said the "landmark document" -- titled A Blueprint for Legislative Action – echoes the sense of urgency that President-elect Obama has articulated regarding the need for a cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Developed through two years of intensive analysis and consensus-building among 26 corporations and five environmental organizations, the Blueprint offers policymakers "a clear path forward endorsed by a coalition representing a broad swath of the economy and diverse environmental interests."

Jeff Immelt, Chairman and CEO of GE said, "In the past, the U.S. has proven that we have the will, the capabilities and the courage to invest in innovation -- even in difficult times. Today, cap-and-trade legislation is a crucial component in fueling the bold clean energy investments necessary to catapult the US again to preeminence in global energy and environmental policy, strengthen the country's international competitiveness, and create millions of rewarding new American jobs."

USCAP said it believes that strong climate legislation is a critical element of any effort to stimulate investment and innovation in low-carbon technologies. The Blueprint provides specific guidelines for the Administration and Congress to enact legislation that both protects the environment and facilitates the necessary transition to a vibrant, low-carbon economy. That includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050 through an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. They said, "every year of delay in controlling emissions increases the risk of unavoidable consequences that could necessitate even steeper greenhouse gas reductions in the future, at substantially greater economic cost and social disruption."

USCAP indicated that their Blueprint details steps for creating a mandatory, economy-wide cap-and-trade program, coupled with cost containment measures and complementary policies addressing a federal technology research development and deployment program, coal technology, transportation, and building and energy efficiency. They said the Blueprint expands
significantly on their 2007 groundbreaking Call for Action, and includes an aggressive emission reduction schedule, further details on the scope of coverage for the cap-and-trade program, and recommendations for how to include as much of the U.S. economy
under the cap as administratively and politically feasible.

While President-elect Obama and many key Congressional leaders, as well as business and environmental interests are supporting the cap-and-trade approach to dealing with the climate change issue, another organization -- U.S. Climate Task Force (CTF) -- and some influential leaders are advocating a "carbon tax" approach. Dr. Robert Shapiro, a CTF co-founder and former economic advisor to President Bill Clinton, along with Dr. Elaine C. Kamarck, co-founder and former domestic policy advisor to Al Gore, issued their own statement, and held a press conference calling the USCAP Blueprint well intended, but "misguided."

CTF said, “The U.S. Climate Action Partnership’s endorsement of an aggressive cap-and-trade scheme represents a significant misstep on America’s path to mitigate carbon emissions. We share their commitment to address the risks of climate change. However, the policy they have chosen is one that has failed to lower emissions in Europe and one strongly opposed by China and other developing nations that have become major CO2 producers. Fortunately, other options exist [
See WIMS 12/22/08].

“A large and growing number of economists and others concerned about climate change support a carbon tax. Compared to other similar policies, a carbon tax has the advantage of being simple, transparent and easy to administer. Moreover, the revenues can be recycled in tax relief for American families. However, as today’s Energy and Commerce hearing shows, a number of influential legislators are still narrowly focused on implementing a cap-and-trade system -- a policy that would make energy prices even more volatile than today and discourage the investments we need to address climate change.

“We have a moral imperative to get climate policy right. And to do that, Congress must carefully weigh the risks and benefits of all potentially viable carbon policies. By soliciting the input of leaders in America’s academic, environmental, and business communities, Capitol Hill can finally engage in a long-overdue, serious debate over the most environmentally effective and economically-sound ways to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions."

Among those supporting a carbon tax, that WIMS has reported on in the past include: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Peter Orszag, former director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and incoming Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Obama Administration; James Hansen, PhD, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies; and Friends of the Earth (FOE) President Brent Blackwelder [See links below for further information].

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and Chairman Waxman's opening statement (click here). Access Speaker Pelosi's brief statement (click here). Access a press release from USCAP (click here). Access a Blueprint summary from USCAP (click here). Access the complete Blueprint from USCAP (click here). Access the USCAP website for a list of members and more information (click here). Access a CTF release (click here). Access a release from CTF with links to a report on the Carbon Tax and more related information (click here). Access various WIMS-eNewsUSA blog posts on the carbon tax issue (click here). [*Climate]