Now that the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy Security Act (H.R. 2454) has been approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, progressive and environmental activists are asking how to save this critical green economy legislation from corporate polluter influence.
The biggest challenge is the political one — how to convince lawmakers that standing up for a truly just and green future is both necessary and wise, when the rewards of defending corporate interests against change are so evident. Congress lags behind the American public in recognizing the urgency and scope of the climate threat, and lags behind the American public in recognizing the opportunity and reward of clean energy leadership.
Even as the greatest challenge in passing green economy legislation is energizing the American public and giving confidence to Congress to become champions of clean energy reform, efforts need to be made to improve the underlying text of Waxman-Markey. Here’s one policy recommendation:
Strengthen the Renewable Electricity Standard
Strengthening the renewable electricity standard (Title I) will create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs and save consumers and industry billions of dollars. The weakened standard in the energy committee compromise is not expected to exceed business-as-usual growth in renewable energy, acting only as a backstop to prevent regress.
BEST: Implement Vice President Al Gore’s “Repower America” recommended renewable electricity standard of 100 percent in ten years, putting American in the lead on global warming pollution reduction and advanced clean energy technology, from concentrated solar power to smart grids.
BETTER: Implement President Obama’s recommended renewable electricity standard of 25 percent by 2025. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated a 25-by-25 standard would create 297,000 new jobs, generate $263.4 billion in new capital investment, and save $64.3 billion in lower electricity and natural gas bills by 2025.
GOOD: Restore the renewable energy standard in the Waxman-Markey discussion draft of 20 percent by 2025 plus five percent efficiency improvements.
Too many people in Washington, whether liberal or conservative, believe that the most significant effect of a cap on carbon pollution is an increase in electricity rates, especially in coal-using states. They don’t see that the status-quo energy policy has given us double-digit increases in electricity rates. They don’t see the record profits of oil and coal companies and the banks that support them even as manufacturing jobs disappear and the rest of the economy subsides. They don’t see the skyrocketing costs of storms, floods, droughts, and disease.
The dramatic change in Washington from last year has made sorely needed national clean energy legislation possible for the first time. But there needs to be even more political transformation inside the Beltway for that legislation to be truly progressive. This is why activists are working to strengthen the hand of the “Green Dog” Democrats and challenge the “Brown Dogs” to reform their act:
— VoteVets, the League of Conservation Voters, and unions are running television ads targeting John Barrow (D-GA), Mike Ross (D-AR) , and Roy Blunt (R-MO) for voting against Waxman-Markey in the energy committee.
— The National Wildlife Federation Action Fund is challenging Ross with print ads in Arkansas for taking the “energy companies’ side… hook… line… and sinker.”