Friday, June 26, 2009
American Clean Energy and Security Act PASSES the HOUSE!
Don't know if you guys followed this like Jon and I did this afternoon, but the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (also known as the Waxman-Markey bill and HR 2454).
If this bill becomes law, it will enact a Cap and Trade system for the United States.
The bill passed 219 - 212 - so it REALLY just squeaked by. 211 Democrats voted in favor of it, with 44 Democratic noes. 8 Republicans voted in favor of it [including my Representative, Leonard Lance!!] with 168 Republican noes.
This bill was expected to pass through the House, however the bigger fight will be when it comes to the Senate in a few months. It will likely undergo major changes and there will be a ton of revisions on it before it comes to vote. To pass the Senate, it will need at least 60 votes (to overcome the filibuster).
To read the full bill, click here [Warning: it is about 1000 pages long...]. To read a summary of the bill, click here. To see if your Representative voted for it, click here. For more information on what cap and trade is, read on.
ALSO: if your Representative voted in favor of it, PLEASE send him/her a thank you note!! (It's only polite...)
Have no idea what cap and trade is? It is essentially an economic-driven basis for carbon emissions regulation.
Each building and business emits carbon dioxide. The government would then, in this case, give permits to each business based on how much carbon dioxide they emit.
If the businesses emitted less carbon than their permits allowed, then they could sell it to other businesses. If they emitted more carbon, they would be required to buy permits. This creates a market, where businesses who emit less carbon can profit. The idea is that the government, over time, would decrease the permits in the market, meaning less carbon would be emitted.
Great in theory, difficult in real life, as shown by the EU, which enacted a mandatory carbon emissions program with the Kyoto Protocol. In Phase One, businesses set the bar too high. They told the government that they emitted much more carbon than they actually did, and they all got more carbon permits than they needed. Therefore, no market was created because there was too much supply and no demand. It has been fixed and is successful now, in it's current stage (Phase Two).
The US DOES currently trade carbon emission permits (as I was surprised to know), but it is on an optional basis. This law would make it mandatory.
Sounds great, right? Well there are, admittedly, a lot of problems with this particular law.
Republicans, in general, would have you believe it is a "Cap and Tax" bill. It's not. It would increase the price of energy by approximately $200 a month, much less than the $1500 or so the Republicans claim. This is because certain energy will cost more than other, less efficient energy - encouraging people to switch to more efficient energy. (Duh.)
Other issues are that it would negatively impact certain industries, notably farming (which produces a ton of carbon emissions) and coal (for obvious reasons). Representatives with heavy populations in these industries understandably were reluctant to vote for this bill.
Propaganda from the Republicans were that it was a "tax" and that jobs would go to China. No, really. One major argument was that the US would be at a huge disadvantage and lose jobs to China. As one Representative, in favor of the bill, pointed out, the jobs that would have been lost to China have ALREADY gone there. (Simply because labor is cheaper there... basic economics.)
What it comes down to is that other countries are going to enter this. Regardless of India and China's status (do we really need to wait for them to take action before we do? So much for being leaders of the world...) this is the direction that the world is headed in. We can either get into it now, or fall behind.
Here are two sites that explain cap and trade in basic terms: here and here.
Image from the Environmental Defense Fund.