American public behind climate change bill

While a strong majority of American voters continue to support climate change legislation which would control pollution that causes global warming and would create a new generation of “green jobs,” much of corporate America and its right-wing congressional allies are digging in their heels to block it.

A recent survey released earlier this month revealed that more than six in 10 voters in the home states of 16 Senators who may cast key votes on climate change legislation support a bill like the one already passed by the House of Representatives. Voters also said they would be likely to vote for their Senator in the 2010 elections if they voted for such a bill.

Analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which passed in the House, explained why the bill is so popular. Provisions in the bill designed to offset higher energy prices for typical consumers would reduce energy bills by $63 billion between 2012 and 2020, if implemented this year.

In addition, resources generated by the bill’s carbon trading system would initiate investments in clean, alternative energy production that could create up to 137,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector alone by 2015, the CAPAF study indicated.

The reduction in greenhouse gas pollution that would result from the passage of the bill would be equivalent to the removal of 26.5 million cars off the road.

Long-term economic stimulus, job creation and protecting the environment are not, however, at the top of the agenda for business groups that oppose the bill.

According to recent media reports, right-wing led business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have financed congressional lobbying and national media campaigns to block the bill, claiming that controlling pollution would harm profit margins.

The impact of this multi-million dollar campaign has been felt. A Senate version of the climate change bill excludes mandatory renewable energy standards. And in a call for “bipartisanship,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., is pushing for a climate change bill far weaker than the bill he supported in the last session of Congress and that provides major exceptions for the coal and nuclear energy sectors.

Some multinational corporations, however, have begun to split with the corporate opposition to meaningful climate change legislation. Companies like Nike and LeviStrauss, who depend on labor and natural resources in regions of the planet that are already being impacted by global warming, have begun to admit that pollution will harm their bottom lines.

Duke Energy made headlines earlier this year when it broke with the NAM over the climate change bill.

“We are not renewing our membership in the NAM because in tough times, we want to invest in associations that are pulling in the same direction we are,” Duke Chief Executive Officer Jim Rogers told a reporter last spring. He added that the NAM, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republicans “ought to roll up their sleeves and get to work on a climate bill, but quite frankly, I don’t see them changing.”

Writing for last week, environmental reporter David Roberts explained that the choice now is between either passing meaningful climate change legislation like the House bill or regulating pollution directly through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

With strong regulatory authority upheld by a conservative Supreme Court in 2007, the EPA can use its authority to control pollution by punishing big polluters, Roberts wrote. “One way or another, climate pollution would be controlled by a federal program.”

The EPA has indicated its willingness to jump into the regulation game. Earlier this year it ruled carbon to be the main global warming causing pollution, the first step needed to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. Last week, the EPA joined with the Department of Transportation to introduce a new federal rule to boost fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, far ahead of the standards imposed by Congress in 2007.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters earlier this month that the Obama administration would prefer to regulate carbon emissions through the market mechanisms that would be created in the House version of the climate bill, but added that the EPA will not hesitate to take up the cause of regulating pollution.

“EPA can do some important things to start to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in our country,” she was quoted as saying. “We would do it under existing authority, that means the Clean Air Act.”

Strong climate change legislation with a cap-and-trade system, offsets for higher energy bills, mandatory renewable energy standards and serious investments in renewable energy resources, such as those provided in the House climate change bill, would be more efficient and permanent than rules adopted through the Environmental Protection Agency, observers have noted.

Such legislation would be difficult to repeal, would be nationwide and uniform and would provide funding streams for the renewables sector.




Joel Wendland
Joel Wendland

Joel Wendland works in higher education. He was previously editor of Political Affairs magazine. He is a union member and a US Army veteran. He is working on a collection of essays for a book, writing a new collection of poetry and tries to find environmentally-friendly alternatives to everyday living. Become his friend on Facebook. Follow Political Affairs on Twitter.