Climate

Breaking: Sen. Boxer makes clear U.S. won’t pass a climate bill this year

Sen. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released her “Principles for Global Warming Legislation” at a press conference today. But her remarks contained the real news — no chance of climate legislation be enacted into law this year.

Greenwire (subs. req’d) reports:

“Copenhagen is December,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told reporters. “That’s why I said we’ll have a bill out of this committee by then.”

… Boxer added that she could move to mark up legislation quickly given her committee’s large Democratic majority, but she would wait for now to build up support.

So Boxer’s goal is to have an EPW bill by December. Then, of course, it has to go through Senate debate, get modified, and actually pass. And then, of course, it must be reconciled with the bill that comes from the House led by Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA):

When it comes to these bills, we’re going to write our own bill, and he’s going to write his own bill,” Boxer said of Waxman. “And we’ll see where it goes. As far as coordinating and having exact legislation, we haven’t decided.”

So reconciliation will probably not be easy nor fast, especially since this is a key point in the process for team Obama to weigh in. And then the final bill must pass both the House and Senate again, which will be yet another challenge, especially if the Senate bill borrows provisions from the presumably tougher House bill.

This timetable should be no surprise to CP readers. As I’ve said for a while, Obama should realize a 2009 bill is not possible, make lemon out of lemonade, and use this year to build domestic support for the bill, take strong actions on energy and climate that don’t require congressional approval, and engage in high-level climate negotiations with China (see “Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010. Here’s how.” and “Does a serious bill need action from China?“).

As for Boxer’s Principles, there is nothing terribly surprising here, although I think she overestimates how much of the auction revenues are likely to be available for her various desired purposes:

1. Reduce emissions to levels guided by science to avoid dangerous global warming.

2. Set short and long term emissions targets that are certain and enforceable, with periodic review of the climate science and adjustments to targets and policies as necessary to meet emissions reduction targets.

3. Ensure that state and local entities continue pioneering efforts to address global warming.

4. Establish a transparent and accountable market-based system that efficiently reduces carbon emissions.

5. Use revenues from the carbon market to:

– Keep consumers whole as our nation transitions to clean energy;

– Invest in clean energy technologies and energy efficiency measures;

– Assist states, localities and tribes in addressing and adapting to global warming impacts;

– Assist workers, businesses and communities, including manufacturing states, in the transition to a clean energy economy;

– Support efforts to conserve wildlife and natural systems threatened by global warming; and

-Work with the international community, including faith leaders, to provide support to developing nations in responding and adapting to global warming. In addition to other benefits, these actions will help avoid the threats to international stability and national security posed by global warming.

6. Ensure a level global playing field, by providing incentives for emission reductions and effective deterrents so that countries contribute their fair share to the international effort to combat global warming.

As a matter of politics, I believe the vast majority of the revenues from the auction will need to be returned to taxpayers — that is to say, the vast middle class. I think at least 60% to 80% needs to be refunded to start with, rising to 80% to 90% within 10 years. Otherwise conservative opponents will simply attack this entire effort as a tax (see “Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 6: What the Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill debate tells us“). Yes, they’ll do so anyway, but if the bottom of three to four quintiles are made whole, the argument can be refuted.

It is also a tad surprising that she did not mention cost containment provisions, including rip-offsets, that so haunted her first attempt (see “Boxer-Lieberman-Warner bill update: Probably no U.S. CO2 emissions cut until after 2025“). Needless to say, any significant number of rip-offsets would be utterly at odds with principle number one — “Reduce emissions to levels guided by science to avoid dangerous global warming” (see “Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 8: The U.S. needs a tougher 2020 GHG emissions target“).

11 Responses to Breaking: Sen. Boxer makes clear U.S. won’t pass a climate bill this year

  1. pschaefs says:

    Hmm, I think returning the revenues to the tax payers is extremely important for this to fly politically. But, people also want clean energy, so I think spending some money on research, development and commercialization could work. I’m in North Dakota, possibly the most important state when it comes to climate legislation considering the power of our two Senators, Dorgan and Conrad. They are philosophically with us for the most part, but their constituents still are not to a large extent and they have yet to vote for any climate legislation. A bill being introduced by majority (R)’s in the state legislature calling for the Senators to NOT support climate legislation. The bill contains all sorts of junk science. You really should read it… unfortunately, I cannot find a weblink for it… but would be happy to email it. It is pretty comprehensive so my guess is that it was written by professional deniers such as Heartland… So, they are already starting to put pressure on key Senators.

  2. Good thing we’ve got plenty of time with all this and there’s no sense of urgency. This year, next year, what’s the difference?

    Luckily we’ve got the legislative brain trust of North Dakota on the case, so we’ve got nothing to worry about.

  3. Matt Leonard says:

    So, I’ll admit there is a lack of urgency from even champs like Boxer – but I was also reading a Reuters article “Climate bill possible “in weeks”: Sen. Boxer”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE51267620090203

    By all means, we need to do everything we can to keep pressure on and make this happen quickly, but it does sound like she is pushing for something quickly. Now, how meaningful and effective will that something be? That’s the real question…

    And you are right – there is much action to be taken without waiting for a comprehensive bill to come forward.

  4. Atmospheric CO2 is now 385.54 according to http://co2now.org/
    It looks like levels increase about 2 ppm per year.

    Care to predict what the CO2 level will be a year from now or when a bill is passed and signed?

    Data trends suggests it will be 387.9

  5. Jeekers, do nothing for a year!?!?! Fiddling while Rome burns.
    Language to “Set goals” is far too weak.

    How’s this for some specifics:

    0. Setup serious science programs that measures change, researches and reports regularly. Block any bill that cannot pass scientific approval. Every politician should know science facts, and should know the harm that delay causes.

    1. Halt all new coal plants immediately. Halt all new coal mines.
    See Hansen’s release today http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2009/20090203_CoalRiverMountain.pdf

    2. Tax all hydrocarbon energy energy immediately while you haggle about carbon markets. Progressively increase the tax – rising each year while you fix the poorly designed, carbon markets run by corrupt banks and financial institutions. Give full tax relief on any carbon fuels that are used to manufacture or install clean energy systems or grids. Structure new taxes to encourage clean energy while you perfect carbon markets.

    3. Extra tax on coal tailings and soot and emissions. If you can make clean coal work then no taxes… so go for it. Otherwise, super tax.

    4. Shut down the PR wing of the carbon fuel companies… they are bothersome like tobacco advertising. Their goal is delay, they are obstructing change. The ONLY valid use for carbon fuel is to build electric cars, wind, solar, insulation and power grids. Nationalize the energy companies if you must.

    5. Do whatever it takes to lower CO2 levels.. and start now.

    Even I want to put some of these suggestions aside while holding out for a healthy economy and improving climate. But we are Waiting for Godot here.

    Government can act now.

  6. Anne says:

    There is much we can do absent a cap-and-trade bill, legislatively. The climate change science program is in great need of renovation and redirection, and needs stronger oversight (e,g. EWP can oversee the EPA science programs.) EPW also needs to work in concert with the Commerce Committee on the climate science programs to ensure the agencies are truly working together, to address ways to help communities get the information they need to identify and implement effective adaptation and mitigation measures. Climate Science Watch suggested two additional “Principles” —

    http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/index.php/csw/details/principles_for_global_warming_legislation_our_views/

    And remember, even after a cap-and-trade law is passed, it will take months, perhaps years, to draft all the regulations and get a program up and running. And utilities and other emitters may slow the process further by filing suits. We need to take additional actions sooner than that to reduce emissions and deal with impacts.

  7. Brian M says:

    “… – Keep consumers whole as our nation transitions to clean energy;…”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I never get a good feeling when our elected officials refer to us as consumers as opposed to citizens. Keeping consumers “whole” implies the desire to arrive back at a happy mall-hopping future. Good luck with that! Instead of supporting consumers and their (our) debt-inflated standard of living, maybe we should be trying to protect and improve the quality of life of the citizens of a) our country, and b) our planet. Just a thought.

    Brian

  8. Papertiger says:

    We’ll own you at the mid term.

    That’s why all this talk of urgency and “keep pressure on and make this happen quickly”.

    Reality is catching up with you. Soon.

    If Bab’s is still barking the climate change next year, she won’t be a Senator much longer.

    [JR: Meds, people, meds!]

  9. thanx Anne… yours is a great site http://www.climatesciencewatch.org/

    One question on the Principles for Global Warming Legislation

    “1. Reduce emissions to levels guided by science to avoid dangerous global warming. ”

    This is so broad, simple and all that we need. But to me that suggests halting all carbon fuels now. This kind of statement of principles is necessary… but what does that mean the first step should be?

  10. jon eden says:

    Thanks Brian. Until we can correct that error, it is going to be hard for us to move toward a sustainable society.

    It sounds like that if we get any bill now, it is going to be cap and trade. That said, I find it hopeful that we will not get a bill this year–in this case a bad bill is worse than no bill.

    Let us hope that the passage of time will give Boxer and others time to unwrap their minds around cap and trade so that there will be the possibility of their embracing the eminently more nimble and sensible carbon “tax”.

  11. Russ says:

    Yesterday Australia bailed out of co2 abatement. Mexico, Canada,China, India and Russia are all rejecting the premise. So what’s the point of this? All the science is going the other way and the result will be the de-industrializing of America. The co2 will simply go overseas. Hopefully the Senate will show more common sense than the Congress, which just opted for massive control and taxation of private industry and consumers. Everyone with the stench of this mess on them should be thrown from office.