Climate bill moves ahead in House

With a bipartisan vote, the House Energy Committee this week passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which would encourage investment in renewable energy and penalize big polluters in a landmark effort to reverse the effects of global warming.

Republicans are pushing common misperceptions about ACES in order to generate opposition. They insist that the system of pollution permits in ACES, which would cap greenhouse gas emissions and raise revenue to invest in a transition to renewable energy, would push up energy costs for most Americans.

The truth is, however, that policies pushed by the Bush administration over the past few years that favor fossil fuels industries like Big Oil have added over $1,100 per year since 2002, according to new analysis from the .

In addition to this little-publicized point, Republicans have deliberately ignored the fact that the Democratic proposal would also create new tax credits and payments for middle-and low-income Americans to offset any higher energy costs associated with moving to renewable sources of energy.

As currently structured the bill would require a 17 percent reduction in emissions over the next ten years, with a goal of reducing them by 85 percent over the next four decades, according to analysis by Daniel J. Weiss and Daniel Wagener at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

The bill accomplishes these goals in two ways. First, it would require, with some exceptions, utility companies by 2020 to get at least 15 percent of the energy they sell from renewable sources, such as wind, solar or other non-fossil fuel-based energy production, the Environmental News Service reported.

Second, the pollution permits created by ACES will be sold to large emitters of greenhouse gases not unlike the current auction system for acid rain pollution permits administered by the Environmental Protect Agency. Basically, large polluters would be required to buy one permit for every ton of carbon dioxide they release into the atmosphere. Thirty percent of such permits would be reserved for coal-fired electricity production plants, which produce about one-half of electricity consumed in the US.

Supporters of the bill believe that this system will provide incentives for energy-intensive industries to shift to renewable energy as a replacement for fossil fuels. The EPA's permit system that regulates the emission of acid rain causing pollution is a working example of how to reduce emissions and raise revenues to fund clean-up and safer, healthier alternatives, they point out.

To ease additional costs and competitive disadvantage faced by globally competitive energy-intensive companies, the bill creates a system of grants and credits in order to prevent job losses.

ACES has earned praise from labor-environmental coalitions as well as some business interests. CEOs at Duke Energy and DuPont, both of whom have joined the US Climate Action Partnership, have endorsed it. Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, who left the National Association of Manufacturers because of that industry group's opposition to the bill, told the House Energy Committee earlier this month, 'A federal climate program has the potential to create real economic growth through innovation.'

Thousands of small business members of the US Chamber of Commerce recently petition that group to end its lobbying campaign against the bill as well.

David Foster, executive director of the labor-environment coalition Blue-Green Alliance, praised the House bill for its focus on protecting jobs and investing in the creation of new 'green jobs.'

'The Blue Green Alliance believes that this legislation is a positive step toward ensuring that the US addresses its climate and energy challenges while shifting to a clean energy economy that provides good jobs in green manufacturing and skilled construction trades,' Foster said in a press statement this week. 'By tackling these challenges together, we can make job creation and environmental integrity the two keys to our country's future prosperity.'

Dan Lashof, director of the Climate Center for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a member group of the Blue-Green Alliance, praised the House bill. The bill 'lays the critical foundation for Congress to enact legislation this year that will spur clean energy investments and cut carbon pollution that causes global warming,' he said earlier this month.

Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope praised the principles in the bill but warned that Washington lobbyists tied to the oil and coal industries would try to water it down. 'It is clear that Big Oil, Big Coal and other polluters are still holding out for a Congressional bailout. They will continue to try to riddle this legislation with loopholes, water it down, and load it up with hundreds of billions of dollars in giveaways,' he explained.

Sierra Club has begun to organize house parties nationally to help promote the bill and energize activists to press Congress to keep the bill's basic principles intact and to vote for its speedy passage.