Our guest blogger is Robert M. Sussman, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and former Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Sussman is now overseeing EPA transition planning for President-elect Barack Obama.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairmen John Dingell (D-MI) and Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality Chairman Rick Boucher (D-VA) unveiled their long-awaited draft of climate change legislation early last month. Longtime allies of the auto and coal industries, Dingell and Boucher have nevertheless produced a thoughtful and serious effort to grapple with the complexities of creating a cap-and-trade system. As they say in their memo to the full Energy and Commerce Committee, “politically, scientifically, legally and morally, the question has been settled: regulation of greenhouse gases in the U.S. is coming.”
The draft bill has a number of strengths for which Dingell and Boucher deserve credit. It is economy-wide, covering 87 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. It sets a long-term target of reducing emissions by 80 percent of 2005 levels by 2050 that corresponds with prevailing scientific consensus. It contains strong energy efficiency programs. It uses the allowance allocation process both to stimulate low-carbon energy technologies and provide consumers relief from high energy prices. It provides for strict oversight of the carbon markets to prevent manipulation and assure transparency. And it creates a “strategic reserve” of allowances that would be auctioned if allowance prices are too high, but avoids a “safety valve” that would suspend the emission cap if allowance prices exceed a predetermined level.
Despite these positive features, two aspects of the bill—the absence of allowance auctioning in the cap-and-trade program and weak emission reduction targets for 2020—raise serious concerns and should not be the starting point for legislative action in the new Congress. Read more