President Obama and Vice President Biden urged a group of House Democrats at a White House meeting this morning to move forward with climate-change legislation that has become a subject of controversy among some Democrats and threatened to stall health-care reform.
At the same time, E&E NewsPM (subs. req’d) reported:
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said today that he will bypass regular order on a major climate change and energy bill and mark up the legislation before the entire 59-member panel.
At this point, I don’t have confirmation for the second story, but it is obviously one strategy for moving the bill along while still giving time for intra-party negotiation.
There does seem to be movement on the bill and the Obama-Biden visit may have helped:
Today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) not only lied twice on national television about the cost of a green economy, but also accused the MIT economist who has challenged Pence’s distortion of his work of playing politics. Since March, the GOP has repeated a $3000 lie about about cap-and-trade clean energy legislation, claiming that the analysis came from an MIT study. Even though economist John Reilly, a co-author of the study, has sent multiple letters to the GOP telling them their distortion is “just wrong” and asking them to stop misrepresenting his work, they ignored his requests. This afternoon, the Wonk Room interviewed Pence about Reilly’s attempts to correct the false portrayals of his own study. When asked if Reilly was wrong, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) accused the economist of “making a public policy or political conclusion”:
I respect the work that he did. We took the number that he used [for the value of the cap-and-trade market] and divided it by the number of the households. What he’s doing, he’s not making a mathematical conclusion, he’s making a public policy or political conclusion. He believes the other side’s analysis that there’ll going to be a rebate of these revenues and job growth.
This morning, after MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked him about the GOP plan for a green economy, Pence instead repeated the $3000 lie. Pence then led a Republican mock hearing on energy policy to attack the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, where the Wonk Room interview took place. Pence then appeared on MSNBC an hour later and repeated the lie in an interview with Andrea Mitchell. Neither Scarborough nor Mitchell challenged Pence for quoting the repeatedly debunked statistic.
Yet again, Pence is “just wrong.” In fact, Reilly, a widely respected energy economist, was “making a mathematical conclusion” when he told the House Republicans their $3000 figure was a fabrication. Asserting that the value of the market is equivalent to the economic cost of the policy — which one has to do to claim that the cost of cap and trade is $3100 per household — requires the assumption that value of the market magically disappears somewhere. Pence is not correct when he makes the argument that the lack of economic detail in the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act permits this distortion. Reilly attempted to explain this to the Weekly Standard:
It is not really a matter of returning it or not, no matter what happens this revenue gets recycled into the economy some way.
Furthermore, Reilly has explained that the MIT study shouldn’t be used to analyze Waxman-Markey at all. Even “apart from the misrepresentation of the costs” by the GOP, Reilly told Climate Progress last week, “it is inappropriate to draw conclusions on the costs of Waxman-Markey” from a study published two years ago that doesn’t model key cost-containment provisions, such as the use of offsets.
In an interview with the Wonk Room, Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) says he’s “glad” economist John Reilly objected, because now Shimkus will use a $3900 figure constructed by the Weekly Standard in response:
Progress Energy said Friday it has pushed back by 20 months its schedule for bringing on-line two planned new nuclear reactors in Florida, after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said its review of the plant site will take longer than expected.
Progress also said it will spread out over five years certain early-stage costs for the new reactors that it could legally bill to ratepayers entirely in 2010, an apparent bid to tamp down customer anger over rate increases linked to the project that took effect earlier this year.
When we last left Progress Energy in 2008, it had said the twin 1,100-megawatt plants it intends to build would cost $14 billion, which “triples estimates the utility offered little more than a year ago.” And that didn’t even count the 200-mile $3 billion transmission system utility needs, which brings the price up to a staggering $7,700 a kilowatt. Under Florida law, to pay for these nuclear power plants, Progress Energy can raise the rates of its customers a $100 a year for years and years and years before they even get one kilowatt-hour from these plants. Sweet deal, no?
Energy Daily (subs. req’d, quoted above) updates the Florida story. Let’s start with the cost to consumers:
NASA’s leading climate scientist says he hopes that climate legislation proposed by Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman (CA) and Edward Markey (MA) to introduce carbon emissions trading to the United States fails. He says lawmakers should abandon cap-and-trade initiatives altogether and implement a simple carbon tax instead….
“Trading of rights to pollute “¦ introduces speculation and makes millionaires on Wall Street,” Hansen said in his keynote lecture at Columbia University’s 350 Climate Conference held here Saturday. “I hope cap and trade doesn’t pass, because we need a much more effective approach.”
Hansen also stands opposed to so-called “cap and dividend” proposals that would introduce pollution trading and a near full auctioning of emissions, with proceeds from the auctions going back to the public. Instead, Hansen proposed a “tax and dividend” approach to tax fossil fuels at the point where they are extracted from the ground, to set a firm price on carbon. Proceeds from the tax, rather than from the auctioning of allowances, would then be distributed to consumers.
“It could be implemented in one year, as opposed to decades with cap and trade,” he said. “The bureaucracy is very simple.”
Why oh why do even smart people like NASA’s James Hansen think that there is such a thing as a “simple carbon tax”? Have you folks ever looked at the friggin’ tax code?
Seriously, nothing bugs me more than this notion that Congress would ever pass a “simple” carbon tax, even if it were politically feasible, which it most certainly is not. Well, one thing bugs me more — people who attack the first serious chance we have to get major energy and climate legislation because they are operating under the severe misimpression that the political system of this country might embrace a tax.
Let’s be very clear here, since there are obviously a great many smart people who keep pushing a carbon tax instead of cap-and-trade, who are wasting a lot of time tilting at windmills, so to speak, when they should be building them instead (with the help of Waxman-Markey):
A carbon tax, particularly one capable of deep emissions reductions quickly, is a political dead end.Neither the Obama administration nor senior members of Congress support a carbon tax. Quite the reverse. Obama (and Clinton and Biden) campaigned on a cap-and-trade system. That is the only game in town. Now you can choose to play checkers when everyone else is playing chess, but don’t be surprised if everyone else starts to criticize or ignore you.
A carbon tax that could pass Congress would not be simple. Advocates of a tax argue that simplicity is one of its biggest benefits. Again, those advocates seem bizarrely unfamiliar with the tax code in spite of the fact that they pay taxes every year. And those advocates seem unfamiliar with what happened the last time Congress tried an energy tax. Does anyone think a carbon tax could be enacted into law that did not have various exemptions or that did not allow companies to pay part of that tax by purchasing offsets? Get real, people. Again, we ain’t playing checkers here. The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill isn’t complicated because its authors want a complicated system. It is complicated because this is a complicated issue and various powerful interests get to weigh in and influence the outcome to protect their interests. The same would be true of a carbon tax bill.
A carbon tax is woefully inadequate and incomplete as a climate strategy. Why? Well, for one, it doesn’t have mandatory targets and timetables. Thus it doesn’t guarantee specific emissions results and thus doesn’t guarantee specific climate benefits. Perhaps more important, it doesn’t allow us to join the other nations of the world in setting science-based targets and timetables. Also, a tax lacks all of the key complementary measures — many of which are in Waxman-Markey — that are essential to any rational climate policy, but which inherently complicate any comprehensive energy and climate bill. Also, the notion that you could return all the money of a tax back to the public is rather na¯ve at best and counterproductive at worst.
The manufacturing sector in the United States continues to shrink “” but could the renewable-energy rush spur a manufacturing revival?
A number of solar-panel factories are coming online in the United States… Makers of wind turbines are also establishing factories in the heartland, where the factories’ proximity to wind farms on the Plains slashes the cost of shipping the giant machines from Europe.
[M]any renewable-equipment manufacturers want to set up operations in the United States because they perceive it to be the largest market for the technologies in the years ahead. (Tax credits in the stimulus package for domestic production of renewable-energy equipment also help.) A key factor in bringing SolarWorld to Oregon, said Mr. Klebensberger, was the work force “” and especially Oregonians’ “belief in change and how important renewables are.” Proximity to a cluster of semiconductor factories, some of whose workers SolarWorld has recently poached, was another attraction.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last week strolling around Paris, eating long meals at cafes, stopping in little shops, wandering through cathedrals, sitting on park benches, and generally enjoying the aesthetic pleasures of the world’s most beautiful day-to-day culture.
So it was a shock to the system to enter the cavernous Palais des Congress, with its blank-faced modernity, and sit in conference rooms listening to functionaries from government and business recite PowerPoint presentations on their five-phase action plans, three-part performance contracts, and seven-stage technology development strategies. It’s great, mind you, to see this kind of work, but the proceedings are so divorced from the city and culture around them, so devoid of poetry or vision or joy. So bloodless.
This, it seems to me, is the great shortcoming in the push for efficiency.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.