Energy and Global Warming news for April 24, 25: The inevitable watering down of Waxman-Markey

Top Stories

Democrats May Ease Bill’s Emissions Rules

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are negotiating among themselves on whether to scale back legislation that would impose a mandatory limit on greenhouse gases, with some conservatives and moderates calling for electric utilities to be given free pollution allowances and for more modest cuts in the targets for reducing emissions….

The talks suggest that utilities that distribute electricity from coal-fired plants are making progress in their efforts to get free access to 40 percent of the emissions permits, underscoring the challenge lawmakers face in seeking strict limits on carbon dioxide and other contributors to warming….

The Waxman-Markey bill calls for cutting U.S. emissions to 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 83 percent below by 2050; the Boucher proposal would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2020 while leaving the 2050 goal in place….

Daniel J. Weiss, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, said that senior Democrats are unlikely to adopt some of Boucher’s requests — such as lowering emissions targets — because they simply reflect the legislation that he and Dingell pushed unsuccessfully last year, but that they might accept his proposal on free allowances.

“The Boucher list seems to be a very thoughtful distillation of good ideas, old ideas and areas for discussion,” Weiss said, adding that awarding the allowances free could “soften the transition” to a low-carbon economy for consumers. “Boucher’s request means a deal is very possible.”

Talks intensify in search for committee win on emissions bill

House Democrats are working behind the scenes to build a winning coalition on a major energy and global warming bill, but it is unclear if they will be successful.

The closed-door negotiations involve leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee and about a dozen of the panel’s moderate and conservative Democrats who are concerned that the draft legislation circulated earlier this month pushes too fast to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Reps. Rick Boucher of Virginia and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania have the lead in the compromise talks with Chairman Henry Waxman of California. The moderates’ group also includes Reps. Charles Melancon of Louisiana and Charles Gonzalez of Texas.

“This is going to be a direct conversation that [Waxman] and I have,” Boucher said yesterday. “Undoubtedly, it’ll span a number of days now. And at the end of the process, I hope I’ll be able to support the bill. In its current form, I cannot.”

Boucher declined to release his four-page list of recommendations, though he and Doyle provided some details. For instance, they have endorsed the electric utility industry’s call to set aside 40 percent of the proposed cap-and-trade program’s allowances for free distribution to regulated local distribution companies (LDCs) within the electricity sector.

On emission limits, they want emission targets lower than those proposed by President Obama (14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020) and Waxman (20 percent). Doyle did not give a specific figure, but an early draft of recommended changes obtained by E&E suggests beginning with a 6 percent cut by 2020.

The moderate and conservative Democrats also support a less aggressive 15 percent nationwide renewable electricity standard for 2025, as compared with the 25 percent target Waxman and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have set for the same date.

“It’s recommendations to the chairman, and we expect over the weekend we’ll be negotiating,” Doyle said. “His staff and our staff will be working on it.”

Doyle explained that the proposed changes could help build industry support for the bill, as well as among Democrats outside the committee. “I want to make the bill as good as we can make it,” he said. “I don’t have any firm lines in the sand. These are things I think are important. If we’re able to get movement toward those areas, then we’ll have a good bill.”

Democrats who already have embraced the draft climate proposal said they welcomed the Boucher-led group’s suite of recommended changes. “We’re going to work very closely with him to resolve those issues,” said Markey, the chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee.

“At least on the Democratic side, people are looking for a way to get to yes,” added Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.).

Other liberal members of the Energy and Commerce Committee said they are willing to keep on supporting the climate legislation as the moderates press for their issues to be heard.

“Sure, you can devastate the bill, and I’d vote against it,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). “But I think the types of modifications that those folks sitting on the fence might be looking for might address a regional concern, a concern back home in their home state and home region.

Dingell predicts energy passage

Michigan Congressman John D. Dingell, the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as harmful pollutants Thursday would help push Congress to pass a meaningful energy reform bill.

‘I think the administration’s using that as a club or a whip or a goad to make the House and Senate act on this legislation,’ Dingell said.

Utilities press House panel for free allowances

Utility companies are pushing for 40% free allowances””a move that reveals power companies’ acceptance of the inevitability of a carbon market. Polluting will no longer be totally free, so the utilities are asking for it to be two-fifths free.

Power company executives amplified their call today for free emission credits to comply with a House climate bill, calling their proposal an “elegant solution” ensuring the public won’t face skyrocketing electric bills.

Representatives of the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners urged the House Energy and Commerce Committee to set aside 40 percent of the proposed cap-and-trade program’s allowances for free distribution to regulated local distribution companies (LDCs) within the electricity sector.

Stimulus restarts 5,000 projects, work on high-speed rail

California will use $5.2 billion from the federal stimulus law to restart 5,000 public-works projects that had been stalled by the state’s financial crisis.

Getting new life are projects that had stopped in December because of the state’s $42 billion budget deficit and credit crunch. They include wastewater treatment construction, engine retrofits, flood control and road construction.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) announced the projects’ rebirth yesterday at a Sam’s Club in Glendora, where Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and BP were unveiling a rooftop solar installation. “This is huge, this will protect jobs, this will create new jobs,” he said. “Every billion dollars we spend on infrastructure creates 18,000 to 25,000 new jobs.”

Calif. approves nation’s 1st low-carbon fuel rule

California air regulators on Thursday adopted a first-in-the-nation mandate requiring low-carbon fuels, part of the state’s wider effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The California Air Resources Board voted 9-1 to approve the standards, which are expected to create a new market for alternative fuels and could serve as a template for a national policy that has been advocated by President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress.

California Fuel Move Angers Ethanol Makers

Ethanol producers reacted with dismay to California’s approval of the nation’s first low-carbon fuel standard, which will require the state’s mix of fuels to be 10 percent lower in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

‘The drive to force the market toward greater use of alternative fuels will be a boon to the state’s economy and public health “” it reduces air pollution, creates new jobs and continues California’s leadership in the fight against global warming,’ said the California board’s chairman, Mary D. Nichols, in a statement.

See more here:  “California may rule corn ethanol is not a globlal warming solution.”

A Setback in the ‘Nuclear Renaissance’

A Missouri utility said Thursday that it was suspending its efforts to build a new nuclear reactor, making its proposed plant, Callaway 2, the first of the ‘nuclear renaissance’ reactors to fall by the wayside.

The utility, AmerenUE, planned to build a reactor near Fulton, Mo., but first it was seeking changes in the Missouri law governing how new power plants are financed. In a letter on Thursday it asked the sponsors of a new law now moving through the state legislature to withdraw the measure, because in its current form it would not provide the ‘financial and regulatory certainty’ the company needed before construction could begin.

Britain Advances Carbon-Capture Plans

Steps to capture and bury greenhouse gas emissions””rather than release them into the atmosphere””appear to have taken an important step forward this week in Britain, where the government proposed making the construction of large new power plants contingent on fitting the technology.

The government also proposed creating clusters of utilities to facilitate the transport and collection of carbon dioxide for storage in depleted oil and gas fields in the North Sea as part of a process known as ‘carbon capture and sequestration,’ or CCS.

Guardian (UK)

Bolivia: water people of Andes face extinction

Its members belong to what is thought to be the oldest surviving culture in the Andes, a tribe that has survived for 4,000 years on the barren plains of the Bolivian interior. But the Uru Chipaya, who outlasted the Inca empire and survived the Spanish conquest, are warning that they now face extinction through climate change.

Compiled by Max Luken and Carlin Rosengarten

11 Responses to Energy and Global Warming news for April 24, 25: The inevitable watering down of Waxman-Markey

  1. Indie says:

    At 57 I sat yesterday with a friend at lunch. I rode my bike, she drove her Jag. We ate Asian fusion in air conditioned comfort. She has travelled to China and Egypt in the last month. I travelled to the beach five minutes away last weekend for the afternoon. I keep the screened windows open all day long at our house while she sits inside her condo in air conditioning so the dirt doesn’t come in and lay on her white upholstery. I spoke to her for two hours on what I am able to convey about the gravity of the changes we are seeing and the scientific consensus and research concerning climate changes.

    Take it all the way down to the daily lives of individuals and tell me that technology and cap and trade are going to make a darn bit of difference.

    I watched the hearing of when Gore and Warner were witnesses. The republicans were scurrilous. This is nothing but alot of high fiveing and gotcha politics while the planet burns.

    Admit it. We are already past the tipping point and even if we aren’t we are so close that by the time these a**hats agree on anything we will be.


  2. Joe says:

    Well, I have always said there would be a two stage transition. The first stage is getting serious at a policy level, and is mostly about techno-fixes. If adopted aggressively, it can get you pretty far at a moderately fast (i.e. too slow) speed. The second stage is about getting desperate at every level — from government to individual. It can move mountains very rapidly.

    It looks to me like we are finally starting the first stage, but I don’t expect the second stage until about 2030, which may or may not be too late for it, depending on how much we get done in stage one.

  3. ecostew says:

    Unfortunately it appears that positive feedback mechanisms are gaining intensity even as human-related GHG emissions are at or above the high-end IPCC emission scenarios. In addition, the IPCC didn’t adequately capture all of our GHG emissions.

  4. Modesty says:

    From the WaPo story (the top article above):

    “The Boucher list seems to be a very thoughtful distillation of good ideas, old ideas and areas for discussion,” Weiss said, adding that awarding the allowances free could “soften the transition” to a low-carbon economy for consumers.

    Do you think the “soften the transition” quote is properly contextualized? That is, do you really think Weiss believes free allocation is a positive factor for *consumers*?

  5. Sasparilla says:

    Depressing to read this, when the original targets weren’t going to be enough anyways, but inevitable as Joe said – since this whole thing is just another negotiable point like all the other things they play with in Washington.

    Interesting to hear your take Joe. Hopefully stage 1 is alot shorter than 2030, as it looks like it’ll be game over by that time.

    God I hope they keep the original targets in the bill – that’s probably naive, but 6% by 2020 (probably with lots of rip offsets on top of it), that’s way too little, way too late (time to plan my migration north, for my great grandkids, if that’s the case).

  6. Rick Covert says:

    Well, it’d be a little naive if we didn’t expect our pals in the coal mining, utilities and oil business to oppose this bill. The bill’s reasonable CO2 emission cap goals are beyond what these industries will tolerate. In fact they would oppose even modest goals even if they were submitted by Boy Scouts.

    So let’s do our part, write our papers and flex a little people power. Given enough people, people power wins everytime.

  7. Rick Covert says:


    One thing you said about stage one. I wasn’t even expecting it this early given the glacial speed that Congress moves.

    I think if the situation in the southwest, particularly in Southern California, gets desparate because of water shortages more people will be pesuaded to demand more substantial action to reduce green house gas emissions.

    People will have to get very active and vocal about it because our history shows that nothing we got today from municipal fire departments (Once private firms), city paramedic services (the private funeral homes performed this service until the late 1960s. You can only imagine the conflict of interest in this one) city water treatment, the banning of steam locomotives for diesel-electrics came without organized political action. The fight to save a livable planet will be no different.

  8. David B. Benson says:


    Date: 8th -11th September 2009″:

  9. Copy and send to your congresspersons and senators:

    How Global Warming could lead to the EXTINCTION of Homo
    Sapiens by the year 2030:

    Reference: “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan
    “Collapse” by Jared Diamond
    “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas

    In previous civilization collapses, there were always people living
    beyond the range of the civilization that collapsed. That is why
    no previous collapse of civilization has ever been an extinction
    event for humans. When a civilization collapsed in the past, the
    people there wandered off looking for food. On the average,
    something like one person out of 10,000 found food elsewhere.
    The remaining 99.99% died of starvation or violence. There were
    always people living far away to start a new civilization

    Now our civilization is global and we have the means of
    transportation to wander absolutely everywhere on the planet.
    That means that the people who wander off looking for food
    (everybody, all 6.7 Billion of us) will find and eat all of the food
    available to even the remotest, most isolated and most primitive
    people on the planet. Given the example of Haiti and other places
    where food is scarce, everything that is even close to edible will be
    hunted or gathered to extinction. With the total extinction of the
    food, the humans will also go extinct. You don’t want to live
    through the end. It will be gruesome.

    Conclusion: Homo Sapiens could go extinct by the year 2030 if
    extreme action on global warming is not taken immediately. A
    population crash caused by a human population of 9 Billion could
    also lead to extinction in the same way UNLESS we have self-
    sustaining colonies on other planets, out of reach of those left on

    I recommend and demand that ALL coal fired power plants
    WORLDWIDE be shut down by the end of 2015. If there is a
    coal fired power plant still operating on 1 January 2016, bomb it.
    The situation is a lot worse than a world war. We have
    FACTORY MADE nuclear power plants to replace coal fired
    power plants with. See:
    A Government Owned Government Operated [GOGO] nuclear
    fuel recycling plant is required and indicated because nuclear fuel
    is recyclable and no longer wasteable. Yucca Mountain has been
    shut down.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    Scientific American: “A Guide to Carbon Capture and Storage”:

  11. Kerry says:

    The show 24 is taking a big stand on Global warming. I think they should shut down Hollywood. Making these Movies and TV shows uses an unimaginable amount of energy for entertainment.