18 Jun 2009: Forum

The Waxman-Markey Bill:
A Good Start or a Non-Starter?

As carbon cap-and-trade legislation works it way through Congress, the environmental community is intensely debating whether the Waxman-Markey bill is the best possible compromise or a fatally flawed initiative. Yale Environment 360 asked 11 prominent people in the environmental and energy fields for their views on this controversial legislation.

The bill is officially entitled “The American Clean Energy and Security Act,” but most people who follow this issue simply call it Waxman-Markey. Named for its sponsors — Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) — the legislation has been roundly criticized for doing too little or too much, but one thing is clear: No matter what form it finally takes, the bill is historic. For the first time, the U.S. government would cap and regulate emissions of carbon dioxide.

Given that CO2 is a byproduct of the process that drives the American economy — combusting fossil fuels — it is no wonder that the bill is controversial. Many opponents, particularly Republicans, say it is a grave error to place a ceiling and a price on carbon emissions, particularly at a time of economic crisis.

But even erstwhile allies in the environmental movement are split over the bill. Their disagreement is centered on the many compromises — including a weakening of emissions and renewable energy targets — that the bill’s sponsors were forced to make in order to win approval in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Yale Environment 360 asked environmentalists and energy experts to share their thoughts on the Waxman-Markey bill. A majority of the environmentalists said they supported the bill — despite its many flaws — because it represents the beginning of an effort to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. These supporters noted that many important pieces of U.S. environmental legislation began with modest steps that were later toughened by amendments. Supporters also said that passage of Waxman-Markey was vital if the U.S. hopes to lead the effort to ratify a global climate change treaty later this year in Copenhagen.

Opponents maintained, however, that Waxman-Markey has been irrevocably compromised. They contended the bill makes so many concessions to powerful industrial lobbies that it will do little to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The opponents also criticized a provision that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its recently acquired ability to administratively regulate CO2 emissions from coal plants. In the end, these critics conclude, it is better to start over and fight for a stronger bill than pass the current, watered-down version.

Here are their responses:

Angela Anderson | Phil Radford | Joe Romm
Denis Hayes | Brent Blackwelder | David Jenkins
Charles T. Drevna | Liz Martin Perera | Michael Brune
Paul Hawken | Michael Noble

Angela Anderson
Angela Anderson, Program Director for U.S. Climate Action Network.
The Waxman-Markey bill offers the most important opportunity in generations to create a prosperous 21st century economy that protects us from a climate crisis. Only by improving and passing a bill will we get a framework for transitioning to a clean-energy future. The bill, as it stands, may not reduce global warming pollution as fast as science is telling us is prudent. When we add emission reductions in this proposed law to the promises of other countries, we fall far short of what we need to do globally. So let’s be clear about what this bill provides: It gives us a framework to build on, and puts us on the path to what science says we need. But it is only the beginning.

Congress will need to stand strong against the special interests that seek to weaken the bill and have the courage to entertain essential measures to strengthen it. It needs stronger requirements for renewable energy and energy efficiency; the EPA needs the authority to hold polluters accountable; and domestic and international investments are critical to transforming the global economy.

The U.S. tradition on environmental protection seems to dictate that the most difficult step is the first one. Whether it is clean water, clean air, or ozone depletion, we have never been able to pass a bill and walk away. We set the policy in place, fight for swift and stringent implementation, sue when we need to, and go back to Congress if we haven’t gotten it right. Global warming is no different. For over a decade, we’ve worked to get to this point in the legislative process. We cannot blow this moment. But we shouldn’t think for a second our job is done once the bill is passed. In some ways, we’re only just beginning.

Phil Radford
Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.
Representatives Waxman and Markey have played a crucial role in bringing global warming to the forefront of the Congressional agenda. And we believe in President Obama’s vision of clean energy jobs and not letting special interests dominate politics. But this bill falls short of that vision.

The science is clear: the United States and the developed world must cut emissions 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. This legislation at best provides a 4 to 7 percent cut below 1990 levels in that time frame, and it is likely to get worse in the Senate. While 4 percent is something, it’s like building a 4-foot levee in New Orleans as the waters rush in at 40 feet. Here’s a sampling of what the bill gives away:

The net result is that coal companies won’t need to cut their pollution, and the president will lose the power to regulate coal under the Clean Air Act, which could very likely cut global warming pollution as much as, or more, than this bill.

We are urging President Obama to confront the undue influence of corporate polluters by using his considerable executive authorities to ensure America’s plan to tackle global warming is based on science, and puts people above politics as usual.

Joseph Romm
Joseph Romm, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he runs the blog, climate progress.org. He is a former acting assistant secretary of energy.
Only two questions really matter regarding the Waxman-Markey bill.

First, is it compatible with — indeed integral to — a national and international effort to keep global warming as close as possible to 2 degrees C?

Second, what would be the outcome if the bill failed?

The answer to the first question is absolutely “Yes.” While the bill is weaker than it should be, particularly its 2020 target, it mandates a 42 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. Building on the massive investment in clean energy in the economic stimulus, the bill completes the transition to a clean energy economy. It devotes some $15 billion a year to clean technology development and deployment. It would be the single greatest push toward an energy-efficient economy in U.S. history.

The bill directs substantial funds toward a global effort to stop tropical deforestation. While it theoretically authorizes up to 2 billion tons in offsets to be used in place of domestic emissions reductions, nowhere near that amount of offsets exists today, nor is there any reason to believe they ever will. If the nations of the world agree to adopt emissions targets, timetables, and strategies compatible with stabilization near 2 degrees C, then the international offsets market will remain relatively small and expensive — especially compared to the large pool of low-cost, domestic, clean-energy emissions reduction strategies.

As for the second question, failure to pass the bill would end any hope of stabilizing climate at anywhere near a 2-degree C increase. Serious U.S. action would be off the table for years, the effort to jumpstart the clean-energy economy in this country would stall, the international negotiating process would fall apart, and any chance of a deal with China would be dead. Warming of 5 degrees C or more by century’s end would be all but inevitable.

Waxman-Markey is the only game in town. Let’s work hard to improve it, but killing it would be an act of environmental suicide.

Denis Hayes
Denis Hayes, President of the Bullitt Foundation, board chairman of the American Solar Energy Society, and National Coordinator of the first Earth Day.
The bottom line in politics is always how you vote. If I were in Congress, I would hold my nose and vote for the Waxman-Markey bill.

What do I dislike about Waxman-Markey?

So why would I support it?

Henry Waxman and Ed Markey are green legislative heroes. They privately acknowledge the flaws in this bill, and they would make it much stronger if that were possible. They can also count votes.

Waxman-Markey’s flaws are huge but discrete, and they can be addressed in the years ahead. Meanwhile, we have to pass something to give the Obama Administration the necessary credibility to create global momentum before Copenhagen. Toward that end, Waxman-Markey is the only credible game in town.

Brent Blackwelder
Brent Blackwelder, President of Friends of the Earth.
During last year’s campaign, then-Senator Obama articulated a bold vision for a clean energy future. He argued that green investments and cuts in pollution can strengthen our economy and create millions of jobs, bolster national security, and help avoid catastrophic climate-change impacts. Voters were persuaded and Obama won in a landslide.

Unfortunately, the bill now moving through Congress fails to live up to Obama’s vision. Special interests — including Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and Wall Street — continue to hold too much sway in the Energy and Commerce Committee from which this bill emerged. In exchange for voting for this bill, conservative Democrats demanded hundreds of billions of dollars worth of giveaways to their favorite campaign contributors.

The result is a bill that doesn’t bring about anywhere near the pollution reductions necessary to avoid cataclysmic warming. The bill’s targets fall far short of scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and even further below what’s needed to return atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to the safe level of 350 parts per million. The bill also makes it hard to achieve a global climate agreement by underfunding international adaptation and clean-energy deployment.

The bill creates giant, under-regulated carbon markets that will benefit Wall Street but not reliably reduce pollution. It eliminates Clean Air Act protections, undercutting the Obama administration’s ability to act. It contaminates carbon markets with “offsets” that will delay U.S. pollution reductions and are unlikely to result in intended reductions overseas.

What may be more relevant to people concerned about how to put bread on the table is that some analyses have the bill producing no more clean energy than business as usual for the next few decades. This means the millions of jobs we can create by transitioning to a clean energy economy won’t come from this bill.

David Jenkins
David Jenkins, Vice President for Government and Political Affairs, Republicans for Environmental Protection.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act is currently the only viable legislative vehicle for passing comprehensive climate legislation this year. As such, it needs to continue its journey through the legislative process. It is not a great bill, but it is better than doing nothing.

The integrity of this climate bill has already suffered a serious blow as a result of the parochial deal-making needed to just secure the support of Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Waxman and Markey made dramatic early concessions — giving away 85 percent of the emissions allowances in the near term, reducing reduction targets, and allowing offsets.

Those are serious concessions to secure a handful of committee votes on the Democrat side, and those concessions will embolden other lawmakers to demand their pound of flesh as the bill moves toward a floor vote. Also, by not involving climate-friendly Republicans in the drafting and initial horse-trading, the bill has not yet gained the level of bipartisan support needed to get it through the Senate — or to help sustain it over time should the bill become law.

A better, and more politically sustainable, cap-and-trade approach would be to auction off most of the emission allowances and return a large portion of the proceeds to the public to offset energy cost increases, thus generating nationwide public support for emission reductions. A revenue-neutral carbon-tax, as proposed by U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), would accomplish the same thing.

The Waxman-Markey bill is an imperfect product of the legislative sausage factory and contains plenty of unsavory political byproducts, but lawmakers — Republican and Democrat alike — should work constructively to improve and pass it. Every year that we fail to enact legislation to reduce carbon emissions, climate change becomes more difficult and costly to address. The responsible, and conservative, course is to act now.

Charles T. Drevna
Charles T. Drevna, President of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association.
Climate change is a complex public policy challenge that must be addressed with realistic, long-term strategies recognizing the vital role that all forms of energy — traditional, alternative and renewable — will play in maintaining our country’s economic strength and quality of life. The National Petrochemical & Refiners Association supports the advancement and deployment of new technologies that bring reliable, affordable, and clean supplies of domestic energy to consumers.

If federal climate change legislation is eventually adopted, we believe such legislation must set a realistic carbon reduction target without political preconceptions or punitive provisions, and allow the innovative nature of American businesses to achieve those goals through the most efficient means. It must protect impacted businesses and the existing jobs of their employees from competition with foreign companies whose countries do not limit carbon dioxide emissions. It must prevent mandating contradictory or redundant policies, and establish a single federal carbon constraint program that supersedes all other federal, state, and local statutes and programs. Lastly, it must not advantage or disadvantage one form of energy over another with respect to carbon constraints.

The Waxman-Markey legislation fails those tests in a number of ways. U.S. refiners already face stiff foreign competition and would be severely disadvantaged with higher compliance costs under the Waxman-Markey scheme. Indian businesses, for example, are building refineries specifically geared toward U.S. markets. Such foreign refiners, whose facility emissions are not addressed in the bill and whose operating costs are much lower, will gain a distinct advantage over American businesses in the marketplace. By ceding our stake in the markets to foreign businesses in locations where environmental standards are not nearly as stringent as those that already exist in the United States, global greenhouse gas emissions would likely increase.

Liz Martin Perera
Liz Martin Perera, Legislative Representative on Climate for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
This year presents a narrow window for putting a framework in place that can institute a hard cap on emissions, kick-start the clean-energy economy, and begin the international negotiation process. While the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill is not as strong as many environmentalists would have liked, it’s exactly what we need and represents a clear step forward for environmental policy.

Henry Waxman and Ed Markey did a masterful job getting this bill through a very tough Energy and Commerce Committee that includes climate science contrarians and members of Congress who are sympathetic to coal and oil interests. Now that the bill moves through other committees and to the House floor, we hope to defend, improve, and pass the legislation.

Obama and his climate team know they need to walk into the international climate negotiations in Denmark with domestic legislation in hand. Otherwise, the United States will have a much harder time convincing delegates that it’s ready to act.

The progress we’ve seen in Congress is due, in part, to leadership from the White House. Obama’s push to have the Environmental Protection Agency use its power to regulate heat-trapping emissions also is pressuring members of Congress to act.

The consensus among most advocacy groups is that we need to work to strengthen the bill and ultimately pass it, while defending against moves to weaken it from across the political spectrum. We also have to remember that it took many years to pass the Clean Air Act, which was later significantly strengthened through various amendments. This is probably the single best shot we’ll ever get at putting a cap on global warming pollution, and we need to take it.

Michael Brune
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network.
I wanted so much to support the Waxman-Markey climate bill. I cheered when Congressman Waxman became chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And I believe it’s imperative we pass strong climate legislation this year.

But despite admirable incentives for hybrid and electric vehicles, improvements in efficiency, and some other initiatives, the current incarnation of the Waxman-Markey bill doesn’t do the job. For starters, it sets the wrong target: Scientists state that an atmospheric concentration of 350 parts per million of CO2 is the upper limit for a stable climate; this bill aims for 450. Moreover, although the international community is calling for cuts of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, this bill aims for 4 percent.

The bill’s largest flaw, however, is the inclusion of 2 billion tons of carbon offsets annually. These offsets represent a massive loophole that will allow polluters to meet their carbon reduction obligations by paying someone else not to pollute, rather than reducing their own emissions. Experience shows that as much as two-thirds of the time offsets don’t work, particularly under current regulations in the agribusiness and forestry industries. A coal company could “offset” its pollution by paying a logging company to raze a rainforest for a palm plantation in Indonesia — destroying some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth, and releasing massive amounts of carbon. To succeed in the fight against climate change, we must reduce emissions from fossil fuels AND stop destroying rainforests.

On Nov. 10, 2008, soon after getting elected, President Obama gave his first speech on climate change. “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all,” he said. “Delay is no longer an option.” Full use of the offsets in the current climate bill would allow polluters to avoid any reductions in their emissions until 2026 — 17 years from today. Instead of settling for this bill, let’s keep fighting for change we can believe in.

Paul Hawken
Paul Hawken, Environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, and best-selling author.
Waxman-Markey is a landmark bill. To be clear it represents a direction, not a plan. But given American realpolitik, it is as good as anyone could have expected. For sure there are some fairly meaty bones thrown to Duke Energy and the coal industry for emissions and carbon sequestration, and there are other lobbyist accommodations. Who knows what will happen as it makes it way through Congress? But the bill brings us closer to European Union standards and in alignment with most of the rest of the developed world.

Critics who see it as lacking are right. Reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 17 percent by 2020 is insufficient. But legislation is not actually written in Congress; it is assembled there. One detects the fine hand of environmental and climate experts in the bill, not just big utilities. The provisions and language are accreted from people who have done the heavy lifting in unsung institutions and NGOs, and I for one am thrilled to see some of this work see the light of legislative day under the auspices of a president who will sign and support it vigorously.

My hope is that the bill will begin to form the basis of a more comprehensive energy strategy that will use physical instead of electoral metrics as the measure of validity, so that we can do away with coal, ethanol, and other money sinks. If I have a criticism, it is not with the overall bill but with the idea that this is a spending bill. It is an investment bill, and I wish we had a governmental accounting system that could distinguish between the two.

Michael Noble
Michael Noble, Executive Director of Fresh Energy, a nonprofit promoting clean energy.
For two decades, my overarching commitment has been an American economy that doubles or triples in size by 2040 to 2050, while CO2 is reduced to 10 to 20 percent of emissions today. The Waxman-Markey bill strives to retain this central integrity, and for all the bill’s flaws, Fresh Energy joins the vast majority of clean energy groups determined to pass it in the House of Representatives this month.

Indeed, several provisions in the Waxman-Markey bill fall far short of what Obama wants: a cap on global warming emissions, with 100 percent permit auctions on day one, and the huge majority of revenues dedicated to protecting middle-class buying power.

However, as the Senate begins its work, one of its highest priorities must be to retain the hard-won authority of the EPA to regulate CO2 from coal-fired power plants under existing law. The current version of Waxman-Markey eliminates EPA’s regulatory authority over existing and proposed coal plants under the Clean Air Act. Over the past few years, the threat of regulation has prevented coal construction because risky schemes face finance barriers. Some 27 coal plants in America are currently seeking permits that would belch CO2 for 50 years.

If that coal surge takes place, we will have to de-carbonize electricity at a much steeper rate from 2020 to 2050, and the hole we will have to dig out of will be much deeper. As James Hansen has often said, to begin to fix the climate then will no longer be possible, since it’s barely still possible today.

With the deals and commitments already made, there may be no opportunity to fix Waxman-Markey in the House before passage. But this bill must be fixed in the Senate before it gets to the president’s desk.

POSTED ON 18 Jun 2009 IN Business & Innovation Climate Policy & Politics Pollution & Health Sustainability North America 


What many of the reluctant supporters of Waxman/Markey fail to address is the time frame for reducing CO2 emissions.

If you believe we have ten to forty years to get our house in order, then you might have justification for supporting this bill. But wait a minute: what about Real Science? The most credible scientific experts — bolstered by expert scientific observation of the acceleration of global warming impacts — tell us we have perhaps a handful of years to avoid exceeding a 2 degree C. increase in global temperature. Worse, these same scientists are telling us that at our present 389 ppm of CO2, we must CUT BACK to no more than 350 (and some say 300) ppm. This means that every year that we delay drastic cuts in energy use and CO2 emissions we are severely undercutting our chances at achieving these limits. I can only conclude that these supporters of this disastrous legislation don't believe the science, or that they are being intellectually dishonest in pretending that we have more time than we have.

In other words, they are whistling in the dark and hoping Jim Hansen is wrong...while lacking any evidence that he is. Those who support the bill, even grudgingly, are like those who knowingly overload an airplane, believing that pilot skill and plane design can compensate for exceeding the capacity. But the odds are greater for global warming; it is the entire planet and its species who will go down, not just one airplane.

So the arguments about this legislation have no relevance to what is an issue of life and death, for billions of people. This is why I have lost patience with and tolerance for those who are reduced to the pathetic argument that "this is the best we can get now", and that we can come back and strengthen it later."

When? How long will it take to pass additional legislation that is based on hard science and
cognizant of how little time we have to change direction? It is appalling that so many people and groups of good will, such as UCS, have become wet noodles on this profoundly moral issue. They will have to bear much of the blame when the heat hits the fan in the coming years.
Posted by Lorna Salzman on 18 Jun 2009

This an excellent series of comments you have put together that illuminate the painful political trade-offs being made at the expense of science.

What I find missing from this discussion is recognition of the support this bill gives to continued reliance on coal as a primary energy source indefinitely.

The support this bill gives to carbon capture and sequestration technology ought to give us all pause. It is out of proportion to the support this bill provides for renewable energy and I am concerned that this will strengthen the hand of fossil energy interests and keep solar and wind and other non-carbon solutions in a supporting role as a matter of federal policy.

Work published in oil industry journals has projected that the oil and gas industry — which would develop and own the sequestration business — would have to double in size to meet the need to bury massive quantities of CO2 underground. It is a welcome prospect to the industry.

The bill provides incentives and bonus payments for CCS and creates a research corporation funded by a $10 billion ratepayer levy to advance the technology. The bill does not shower such largesse upon other clean energy technologies, and at the least, they ought to be granted equal footing.

It is part of the political price being exacted and it is doubtful that anyone can roll back support for CCS. After all, the White House, the Energy Secretary, Congress, insider environmental organizations -- all support CCS development.

But the disproportionate support CCS is getting in this deal is worth spotlighting in order to underscore another reason to strengthen the clean energy provisions of the bill which almost every commentator above has called for.

This is after the American Clean Energy and Security Act. It does provide a toolbox and is a only first step, but this aspect of the framework creates conditions within the political economy moving forward which may be impossible to overcome.

On a level playing field, given timing and cost and other factors, CCS would not fare well against other technologies which are ready to be scaled up now. The trouble is, the bill provides financial support and sufficient delay to skew the market outcome so that coal will keep coming out of the ground without a slowdown.

And when it comes out of the ground, it means it will get burned and carbon will end up in the atmosphere for the foreseeable future -- until one day a decade or two hence when the technology is ready perhap, it starts getting pumped back into the ground.

For more, please see:

Climate Bill Earmarks $500M for Clean Coal 'Admin Expenses'



Are Environmentalists and the Fossil Fuel Industry Calling a Truce?


Posted by David Sassoon, SolveClimate on 18 Jun 2009

Getting the best we can get now is better than getting defeated, but is this the best we can get?

It is more the product of the Congress (old US) than the Administration (new US). Leadership moves people from where they are, and making the attempt always involves risks. While we can't know the full landscape of risks and rewards as presented to and seen by the President, it's natural to wish that he'd pick this spot to unleash more of his leadership skills.
Posted by heathrose on 18 Jun 2009

Salzman hit the nail on the head: the subject at hand should be science, not politics.

I have the greatest admiration and respect for Henry Waxman and his staff which, in my judgment, is the best in Congress. But this legislation represents the best that could be produced in a Committee saturated in coal, oil, rail and other special interest money. There are three or four members that aren't bought and sold, but the rest are owned lock, stock and barrel by the bad guys.

While the bill may be the best bill that could be produced by Waxman, that makes it neither a good start nor a non-starter. If the bad guys are smart enough to realize what a great deal it is for them, the bill bill not be the start, but the finish. It would make trillionaires of the very companies that created the threat now posed to humanity, precisely because they are polluters. That is why the bill is not a non-starter either: by converting pollution to money, then handing it out to polluters, it turns environmental protection into pork barrel politics.

Waxman can hardly be faulted for this, for the environmental community has delivered its proxies to the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund (I like the old name better) who are joined at the hip in their insistence on trading, as they were in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. But just as trading failed then, it is virtually certain to fail now. But NRDC and EDF will listen to none of that because they want to be in the backroom when the deals are cut, and the price of admission is to appear "reasonable."

Global warming is well underway. There can be no credible dispute.

Positive feedbacks, or "tipping points" are also starting to kick in. There can be no credible dispute on this either: ocean acidity is up by 30 percent, the Arctic is melting faster than predicted, an area in Siberia the size of Germany and France combined has thawed for the first time in 10,000 years, glaciers are receding throughout the world, phytoplankton levels are down in the North Atlantic...on and on (for a more complete list see my book's website, saving-ourselves.com).

The Waxman-Markey bill, for all practical purposes, deals only with carbon dioxide, which has a lifetime of 50 to 3,000 years. Humanity will be gone by the time cooling benefits kick in.

The Waxman-Markey bill also relies wholly on a single policy, emissions trading. This policy has the distinction of having failed every time it has been attempted: acid rain (the lakes and forests are still dead and the soils still poisoned), leaded gasoline (which wasn't eliminated until the Congress banned it outright in 1990), smog (southern California's spectacularly failed RECLAIM program), carbon dioxide (Europe) and greenhouse gases generally (the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism, which has made traders in London multi-millionaires, but done virtually nothing to help the poor or reduce carbon dioxide).

Carbon dioxide reductions will not save us, nor will trading.

The only way to save ourselves is to immediately reduce levels of smog, soot and other causes of global warming that have lifetimes of a few minutes to a few years. Those reductions will also save millions of lives, avoid billions of illnesses, increase crop yields and otherwise save money. No, I have not been smoking something funny. I have however, been toiling in this particular vineyard for over a quarter-century.

When I left the Senate in 1989, I wrote two companion magazine articles, "Does Your Cup of Coffee Cause Forest Fires?" (answer: yes, because at the time the cup was made with CFCs, which are powerful greenhouse gases) and "Will Changing Your Lightbulb Save the World?" (answer: yes, because compact fluorescent bulbs, 100 mpg cars, ways to capture and exploit methane, powerplants that are double or triple the efficiency of most in the United States, have existed for decades, and a policy to cause their adoption would cut pollution, including greenhouse pollutants, by 60 to 90 percent).

Science tells us that such measures must be adopted everywhere and immediately if humanity is to save itself. But the last thing politicians, industry, some public sector groups care about is science — and humanity's survival.
Posted by Curtis Moore on 18 Jun 2009

I'd like to point out that China and the developing world are watching and that we are already over a tipping point to failure at Copenhagen. Waxman-Markey will probably become the example:

"Far too little emission reduction because systemic change is off the table; a weak semi-agreement on paper which most will understand as subvertable. It might be the best deal that negotiators can achieve but it will be failure for even those that still cling to 450 as the ceiling, 2050 as the target date, and still believe that mitigation is possible with instruments and regulation still firmly within BAU."

Australian Green senator Christine Milne was talking about Waxman-Markey as well as Labour's not nearly good enough new climate change legislation in her recent very significant speech:

"Incrementalism is worse than useless in the face of the climate crisis. Just as you cant be a little bit pregnant, you cant stop climate change by doing 5% of what is necessary. Or even 25%. If we trigger tipping points, the heating process will gather its own momentum and there will be nothing we can do to stop it. Doing too little to avoid those tipping points is functionally equivalent to doing nothing."
Australia senator Christine Milne

Posted by Bill Henderson on 19 Jun 2009

I don't suppose anybody has noticed the pronounced cooling since 2002 in spite of the continued upward climb of CO2.

Given that all human activity is still only 3% of the total of CO2 in the atmosphere, any restriction on CO2 production is beyond silly.
Posted by Judy Cross on 19 Jun 2009

When I think about the bill, I try to imagine I were a legislator from Minnesota or Michigan, someplace where people don't talk about climate change much.

For those legislators to endorse a carbon cap plan --any carbon cap plan -- signals that concern for climate change truly has crossed the threshold and into the heartland. Hallelujah.

In coming years, as alarm over global warming rises, C02 laws will be strengthened. This week's bill will be remembered as a visionary and crucial first step.

Posted by David Ferris on 23 Jun 2009

The elephant in the room, always and always, is the power that laws give to corporations. Not only do they enjoy the protection of corporate law but, according to the Supreme Court, they are entitled to all the rights of "free speech" that an individual has. So an entity with power, money, organization and essentially amoral values has an overwhelming advantage over science, common sense and the will of the people.

How can we possibly reduce the power of lobbyists without looking at the elephant in the room?
Posted by Jim Bridges on 29 Jun 2009

The problem is not just C02, but the localized emission of mercury into water supplies and accumulated in consumed fish. for certain localized detrimental pollution producers, pollution credit trade needs to be restricted for environmental progress to occur. A credit trade from a wisconsin wind farm for a coal plant in tennessee might be argued that the CO2 tradeoff is comparable, but the localized over pollution of food and water supply escapes correction. There must be restrictions on some power plant credit trades.
Posted by jk on 29 Jun 2009

We cannot afford to compromise away our future. Cap and trade will become a license to pollute and tax or restrict smaller competitors. The idea of perpetuating the use of coal — Perhaps behind a smokescreen (ash screen?) of "clean coal" is only going to perpetuate the
status quo.

We need to be looking at wind power, solar power, tidal power and yes sequestering carbon nationwide. Electric cars that are not powered on alternative energy will simply continue our
dependence on oil and coal for the foreseeable future.

Our ancestors knew how to harness the wind for individual mills, and we have known how to
convert sunshine to electricity and hot water for 60+ years. Hundreds of years ago, so-called
primitive cultures were physically sequestering carbon. Is it because we can't, because we don't want to make a conversion — or because it isn't profitable? And who stands to make the most on it?
Posted by Penny Steyer on 29 Jun 2009

Well, the fate of the planet it appears is enmeshed in bureaucratic fumbling. Clearly the atmosphere is warming, and it doesn’t take much common sense to realize that something decisive needs to be done. Our legislators are like puppets going on a walk who can’t decide whether to step forward, backward, left, right, or turn a somersault. The result is inertia, or nearly so. Special interests are the problem, the strings attached to the marionettes that keep them twisting and dangling, not knowing which way to go. The simplest “baby steps” seem to elude them.

Nobody except a millionaire can run for office, and even he or she in most cases must sell out to corporations, lobbyists, and wealthy donors. The end result is most often a representative who is not his own man (or woman), but is in the pocket of special interests.

When the dollar comes before everything, there can be no integrity.

Full public financing for elections would cut the cord between politicians and big-money interests who pull the strings and jerk us all around.
Posted by Bill Howarth on 29 Jun 2009

For anyone (like Judy) who still doesn't get the science, please watch what a panel of expert scientists have to say:


Also, I'm surprised more people aren't harping on the health benefits of global warming legislation. A good bill that reduces CO2, which is only the product of complete combustion, will also reduce the harmful products of incomplete combustion (like carbon monixide and carcinogenic benzene) that are released as well. Not to mention impurites like mercury, arsenic, sulfur, and other toxics that are released when coal is burned. The American Lung Association estimates that between 50,000 to 100,000 Americans die prematurely from air pollution; think of the lives saved (Worldwatch Institute estimates at least 8 million over the next two decades) and health care dollars saved by passing climate legislation that significantly reduces pollution. One EPA study found that for every dollar we spent on air pollution control between 1970 and 2007, we saved $45 in health and environmental costs.

Giving $60 billion to the coal industry is probably the worst thing I can think of to do with taxpayer's money. Especially when it dwarfs the money going to green jobs training and aid to displaced workers. And especially since wind and soalr both create more jobs per kilowatt-hour than coal. In other words, if coal went out of business today and wind and solar took over, more people would have jobs. That's the kind of legislation I want to support.

Posted by Emily Church on 29 Jun 2009

Whoever dared say the old or new U.S., it stands as treason to say any old in modern times. New ways would be to show doing better than the ones before to maintain essential social levels necessary as agriculture and forestry departments, healthcare, and certain laws enforced or relaxed.

The struggle seems to be which mentality should have say when selfish and unqualified efforts result in less or damage while professional standards maintain flow and prevent or stop attempted obstruction. Down the road sight of how to undo past mistakes and improve what is needed, making it good for all and not just for illicit frauds will be the only way to truly show better management.
Posted by Maija on 30 Jun 2009

I do not think anyone can totally deny that there has been a global warming trend, although as Ms. Cross correctly indicated we have been experienced overall cooling in recent years. However, there is nothing new about global warming and cooling, which occurs in well-documented cycles. Much of North America has been covered by continental ice sheets in the past, and shallow seas and tropical swamps have been present in what is now the continental interior. These events occurred in the absence of people and burning of fossil fuels. I do not deny global warming and cooling, but am puzzled that humans are so arrogant that they believe they can cause or prevent climate change. Waxman-Markey will have devastating economic impact in our current economy and will do nothing to change the climate trends we are experiencing.
Posted by Gary on 01 Aug 2009

Everybody realizes coal is dirty. By replacing this dirty fuel with clean burning natural gas, emission amounts would be reduced by 1/2. When the coal industry can prove in the future that they can be as clean and as efficient as natural gas, let them come back then. If it is going to take 10 or 15 years to develop this technology, do we want to let them continue operations?
With the amount of natural gas in reserves right now, the USA has a clean reliable fuel for over 100 years.

But let's not stop there. Natural gas is also a fuel that can be consumed to over 90 percent energy efficiency. Right now our governments and industry are consuming this fuel at aprox 65 to 80 percent efficiency. Power plants are 35 percent efficient.

There is a lot of HOT exhaust going up all these chimney's across the country.

The DOE states that for every million BTU's recovered from this hot flue gas, and then utilized back in the building or facility, 118 lbs of CO2 will NOT be emitted into the atmosphere. How much natural gas is being consumed. Natural gas touches everything we feel, eat and drink and wear and consume.

This new bill must also include "increasing natural gas energy efficiency."
Posted by Sid Abma on 27 Aug 2009

I've spent twenty years in the "Business" of trying to convince Utilities it was in their best interest to use cleaner technologies "on the back end." All they respond to is the "Law."

If "waste energy" or "reusable energy" were classified, specifically, in the "Law" we could stop WASTING 60% of our energy! Right now, most power plants operate at 60% efficiency, at best.

If we simply "recycled" 25% of the waste heat in the U.S., we would NOT have to build another Power Plant for twenty years.

In addition, when the flue gas is "milked" of all the wasted BTU's, the NOx, SOx, CO2 can be neutralized, and all the metals "condense" out, leaving "pristine air."

This technology exists NOW. Why isn't it being used? Because, there's no incentive, or "tax credits" for using waste energy. Simple.

Dan Longworth

Posted by Dan Longworth on 19 Dec 2009

Comments have been closed on this feature.



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