The short, snarky answer is “no — Boxer-Lieberman-Warner is never going to become law.” The longer, analytical answer, which is the primary subject of this post, is “probably not, thanks to the bill’s many cost containment measures, but it would take us off the business-as-usual emissions path.”
Before explaining why, let me make clear that the vote on B-L-W is a purely symbolic one since it as DOA as a bill can be (see here). Most of the media, most of the public, and most of the world are unlikely to get much detail on bill. They will just see whether a greenhouse gas cap & trade bill can get a majority, if not 60 votes, in the U.S. Senate. So, I would recommend any Senator vote for it — after giving a floor statement explaining that it was in fact too weak. I can’t see casting a protest vote against a symbolic bill while asserting it is too weak. The protest would get lost in the noise. Finally, it would be the height of hypocrisy for a conservative senator to cite progressive critiques of the bill, including mine, as a reasons to vote against it. Anyone who votes against this bill should at least have the guts to say whether they themselves think the bill is too weak or too strong.
WHY THE BOXER BILL WOULDN’T CUT U.S. CO2 EMISSIONS BY 2020
This story begins late Friday night, when Deep ‘emissions cut’ Throat sends me the World Resources Institute’s 14-page summary of the Boxer substitute to the Lieberman-Warner bill (here), with a note, “Does this mean no emission reductions until 2028? See bottom of page 6.” Intrigued, I turned to the bottom of page 6 and read this bullet:
- If all cost containment mechanisms in the substitute are applied, the result could be almost no change in U.S. as compared to business as usual.
Uh-oh. When the solid analysts at WRI issue a warning, you can take it to the permit bank. I remember Deep ec Throat’s advice to me many years ago, “Follow the cost-containment money.” That’s what led to my post on McCain’s climate plan, “McCain speech, Part 2: Relying on offsets = Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Now WRI cryptically says, “WRI intends to explore these issues further in forthcoming analyses.” But why wait for WRI’s solid detailed analysis, when I have Boxer’s full text here and my own dependable abacus? I’ll post this as a draft analysis and if any of you out there can find holes in it, let me know.
My rough calculations say that if every cost containment measure were fully used, then U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020 could be about the same as if there were no bill. Needless to say, that’s not a good thing.
Needful to say, however, some of the cost containment measures are not super-cheap (although they are probably all much cheaper than the current cost of European Union’s emissions allowances) — and a lot of auction money is used to promote energy efficiency and low carbon technologies. So if this bill were to become law — which, of course, it won’t because last week it was moved from the “morgue to anatomy class” — then I very much doubt emissions would actually follow business as usual (BAU) trends.
I do believe, though, that emissions in 2020 would probably not be much different than they are today, which is still not a good thing.
So what could happen and what would happen? And should a Senator who is concerned about human-caused global warming vote for or against the bill on this basis?