Senate Climate Bill Released With Much Fanfare, Little Focus on Transport

Flanked by fellow Democrats, members of the military, and a crowd hoisting signs with buzzwords like "clean energy" and "green jobs," Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and John Kerry (D-MA) today released the first draft of their legislation to curb U.S. emissions and combat climate change.

2549087853_62635f6261.jpgSens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), center, and John Kerry (D-MA), left, at a 2008 rally. (Image: NWF via Flickr)

The bill (available here) contains a stronger target for pollution reduction — a 20 percent decrease below 2005 emissions levels by the year 2020 — than the House climate measure which passed by a razor-thin margin in June.

But environmental groups are already lamenting that scientific consensus has urged a 40 percent pollution reduction below 1990 emissions levels in order to effectively forestall the negative effects of climate change, making the Boxer-Kerry bill "woefully inadequate," in the words of Center for Biological Diversity executive director Kieran Suckling.

And the Senate bill’s transportation provisions, as Streetsblog Capitol Hill reported yesterday, offer only a marginal improvement over the House version, which gave transit and other clean transport just 1 percent of the proceeds from any cap-and-trade carbon regulation system.

The Senate bill’s section on allocations — the amount of aid provided to state governments and various industries to help meet emissions-reduction goals — is subject to change as the environment committee, which Boxer chairs, and other panels attempt to amend the legislation.

As it stands, however, the Senate would require states to use 10 percent of their allocations to reduce transportation-based emissions. The House climate bill, by contrast, allowed states to use up to 10 percent of allocations on transportation but did not make it mandatory.

Boxer and Kerry’s draft also includes a "set-aside," in Washington parlance, for transit grants to help states and metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) meet national standards for cutting transport-based emissions.

Those transit grants, distributed according to existing federal formulas, would be funded by auctioning a still-undetermined amount of emissions allocations and depositing the proceeds in state Climate Change Response and Transportation Funds (CCRTFs). After 10 percent of CCRTF funds went to coastal states, to help cope with the risk of climate-induced floods, and 1 percent went to Indian tribes, 50 percent of the rest would go towards transit.

Electric vehicles, including electrified transit, fares better under the Senate bill. The Department of Energy would have full control over a still-undetermined share of allocation auction proceeds, with the dual mission of establishing reliable infrastructure to fuel electric vehicles and developing "a national transportation low-emissions energy plan."

Meanwhile, transportation reform groups are already strategizing about how to increase the bill’s focus on their area — which currently accounts for one-third of U.S. emissions but stands to receive far less than the 10 percent of total climate revenue that is mandated in the so-called "CLEAN TEA" legislation.

The fate of transit and other clean transport may rest with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the upper chamber’s lead sponsor of "CLEAN TEA." Carper, who was not present at today’s Boxer-Kerry press conference, released a statement that notably withheld an endorsement of the current climate bill:

Senators
Kerry and Boxer have worked hard to produce the bill they released today and
I congratulate them for their efforts so far. It is now time for the
Senate committees to get to work examining the bill’s provisions and
considering any changes necessary. … I expect there wil be some important changes made as this effort advances and we build consensus around how to address this vitally important global energy and climate challenge.

Few on the Hill expect the Senate to be able to meet its initial goal of voting on a final climate bill before United Nations climate change talks begin in December in Copenhagen. Still, Senate passage next spring remains a distinct possibility — which makes the Boxer-Kerry bill’s relative alignment with the House version one of its biggest political selling points.

As one of the House climate bill’s lead sponsors, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), put it: “Given the Senate draft’s structural similarity
to the House-passed Waxman-Markey bill, a legislative solution that can
pass both chambers of Congress is finally within sight."

The question is, how much of a solution will the final product turn out to be?

  • Rmoen

    Support for cap-and-trade has evaporated. Daily I read editorials, comments and letters-to-the-editor from all over the nation. When the House passed the cap-and-trade bill it was maybe 2-to-1 against cap-and-trade, opinion now is off the charts against it. The Senate will wise to bury this complex and risky legislation.

    Frankly, I don’t see Americans supporting cap-and-trade or any CO2 regulation until we have our own Climate Truth Commission. We now largely out-source our climate science to the United Nations, a political organization, dedicated to advancing their “consensus” view that CO2 drives global warming. The problem is, their view is neither a consensus and can’t possibly be 100% correct because they don’t factor-in clouds and solar activity:

    The FACTS:
    1) The 600 climate scientists who worked on the UN’s Climate Change 2007 report never voted on the ‘drives’ issue. That conclusion was reached by only about 50 scientists plus UN bureaucrats.
    2) The UN has a huge conflict of interest. The ‘Kyoto Protocol’ is their’s. They have a vested interest in demonizing CO2.
    3) Thousands of knowledgeable people and climate scientists worldwide tell us the UN is wrong.
    4) Past climate changes–100s of them–were driven by Mother Nature, not mankind. Yet, the UN took Mother Nature off the table when they limited their evaluation to ‘climate change caused by human activity’.
    5) There is no ‘smoking gun.’ The proof that CO2 drives global warming is circumstantial.
    6) The UN treats unproven climate projections as ‘fact’, yet UN forecasts for the last 10 years do not fit what actually happened.
    7) The UN used faulty data to bolster unwarranted findings in the past.

    The United States needs our own objective, transparent climate commission to think-through global warming. We need the advice of a bi-partisan Climate Truth Commission before we burden our economy with expensive energy. Both sides of the man-made global warming issue should welcome such an approach. …each is so sure of themselves.

    — Robert Moen, http://www.energyplanUSA.com

  • hsr0601

    “A Global Green New Deal”

    1. The Need For Change In Energy Platform :

    A. About two thirds of deficit in the U.S. accrue from oil import.

    B. Over $1 trillion and 4,346 dead as the Iraq war is winding down. By converting this excessive military budget into a constructive foundation of 21st energy and health care, world can live in harmony for good.

    C. Tremendous trade deficit with China. The most expensive premiums of health care driving buyers into Wal-Mart .

    D. Provided the average temperature is getting higher, accordingly all forms of germs, viruses, and influenza etc are more likely to multiply.

    Some skeptics say the warning against hazards of climate change is overstated, but judging from more frequent and widespread outbreaks of e. coli, salmonella, and bird, swine flu cases endangering human lives and economic recovery seriously, some prompt measures need to be taken, I guess.

    2. The Cost Of Inaction :

    As with “Inaction” cost, $9trillion over the next decade in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, supposedly the same is of inaction on the 21st energy bill to determine war & peace, catastrophe & prosperity.

    In this economy, fuel price is hovering around $65 to $75 a barrel, which underscores the actual value might be much the same as $145 per barrel of the peak price. Last year, the petrol price jumped from about $60 to $145 per barrel in quite a short period.

    I think energy market also needs competition between sustainable and conventional one to bend the cost curve, otherwise, the global economy stays flat for some time and is plummeting into another great depression as the international stimulus package can’t last long.

    3. The Root Of Recession :

    My sense is that this great recession is ascribed to excessively higher price of petrol in recent years. This price spelled about higher consumer prices and the continued hike in mortgage rates as a way to slow inflation, which wound up with crash in financial and construction markets. In an attempt to circumvent the censure of two petrol wars, the mainstream economists put focus on the both markets, and it postponed the prompt action on the long and long overdue contemporary energy needs.

    Looking to worthless, painful and wasteful oil wars, to waste time bickering over meaningless things and drag feet on a defining energy bill are sure to shake the embryonic effect of stimulus package that is an interim measure for build-out of a new foundation.

    As the overall oil reserve in Middle East, let alone the rest of oil-producing areas, is on the decline more than known, the region blessed with affluent sun rays also needs to lay a new groundwork, particularly in this context UAE is beginning to concentrate on future energy and Iranian EV is rolling out recently, the countries in the region will never stand still on the occupation, that means no matter what the result is, the repetitious mistake at the cost of invaluable lives and gigantic spending will end up with an irreversible tragedy later on.

    4. Hope For Better Change & Job Boost :

    As a major driver, IT industry stalled and stranded in a game industry for the lack of 21st energy policy over the stretch of two wars needs to expand into the all but indefinite energy, medical, and academic industry where the investors are eagerly waiting for policy-makers to act now, which I guess is why the far-reaching and long overdue health care and 21st energy bill have come into focus.

    Thankfully and interestingly enough, 100s of Companies (with $13 Trillion) Are Demanding Strong Climate Deal in Copenhagen just like environmental activists, a coalition of more than 500 Global Businesses is also demanding ambitious new climate deal, and the report by Blair and the Climate Group, a London-based nonprofit organization, found a climate-change accord among all countries would spur economic growth and create as many as 10 million jobs by 2020.

    Beyond the report, according to a new report published by the Global Climate Network of think tanks, “A Global Green New Deal” could create tens of millions of new jobs by agreeing to invest in low carbon technologies.

    This research shows that while jobs will be lost in conventional, carbon-intensive sectors, more jobs will be created than lost provided that policies to promote sustainable industry are ambitious enough and it is one of the most effective means of handling rising unemployment.
    It concludes that measures to creating markets for low carbon technologies will serve the dual purpose of creating extra jobs in renewable energy, information technology and service sectors, as well as helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    5. Funding For Hopeful Change :

    A. Converting the excessive and destructive military budget into constructive financing for the 21st energy.

    B. Phasing out subsidies for carbon-intensive industries, and taxing carbon emissions.

    C. For the most part, the poor regions ranging from Africa to South Asia severely affected by climate change are abundant in sun rays, and the compensation by way of placement of large solar plants as well as the other measures could generate enormous effects.

    D. The Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of House bill, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only about $175 a year. This is 48 cents per day –- a little more than the cost of a postage stamp.

    The budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth

    6. Promising And Excess Tech In The Work :

    In brief, only technology and innovation can meet the challenge, and the world of science has potential enough to get past this turbulence and for all over the globe to go along in harmony. Recently, GM and Reva that achieved a fantastic innovation of “wireless electricity”/ “instant remote recharge” have joined hands to develop Electric Vehicles.

    In the near term, improving energy efficiency needs some up-front investments, though, in the long term, it promises much better future, and the current tech is sure to do better enough.

    Thank You !

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