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White House efforts to get climate bill through House and Senate

By Joe Romm

"White House efforts to get climate bill through House and Senate"

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E&E News PM (subs. req’d) has some updates on White House efforts to get the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster for a climate bill:

The White House is reaching out to moderate Senate Democrats in an effort to build support for legislation to sharply curb U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, a White House energy and climate aide said today.

“We have had a number of conversations with the staffs of some of the moderates,” said Joseph Aldy.

“We have reached out to them to understand what are the key issues they would like to see addressed in an energy and climate package, and making sure that as we move forward we are not missing any of the important voices in the debate,” he added.

At the same time, the administration continued to send signals that it understood the inevitable — no climate bill that starts with 100% auction in the first year could get the necessary votes in both houses:

The Obama administration would consider delaying its plan to auction all emission credits under a federal climate regulation scheme, a senior administration official said today.

President Obama, backed by many environmental groups, has proposed auctioning 100 percent of carbon emission allowances under a cap-and-trade plan. But industry groups are pressing to receive some free allowances that they say will help utilities and other emission sources meet compliance costs and protect consumers from price spikes.

“The idea, obviously, is to end up with a bill that reflects both the thinking of Congress and the administration, a bill that the president can sign,” White House science adviser John Holdren told the Washington Post. When it comes to the 100 percent auction, he added, “whether you get to start with that or get there over a period of time is something that’s being discussed.”

Obama can hardly be can criticized for flexibility when the uber-progressives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) glossed over the matter entirely (see “First impression of Waxman-Markey: A solid bill that boosts the economy, creates green jobs, and puts the country on a path to preserve a livable climate. Grade: B+“):

The draft climate bill released last week by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sidesteps some critical details on allowances and auctions, leaving the issue open for negotiation in coming weeks. Markey said last month that he does not expect Congress to approve a complete auction of the credits.

Obama signaled during a prime-time news conference last month that he might be willing to budge on the 100 percent auction when it comes time for legislative debate. The climate bill, he said, “has to take into account regional differences, it has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices.”

Many observers saw those comments as a recognition that some percentage of allowances would be given away free.

“I think it’s been apparent for a long time that the path forward to get to ‘yes’ in both houses meant you had to deal with these kinds of concerns,” said David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center.

The devil is in the details, of course.  Most of the tons must be auctioned to start, and we need to get to 100% auction quickly, within 10 years.  For me, the rip-offset issue is much more important than the 100% auction issue.

House Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearings on the bill are slated to begin the week of April 20, and Waxman wants to complete a full committee markup by Memorial Day.

If Waxman can get the bill thru the relatively conservative House Energy and Commerce committee, most observers believe the bill can pass the entire House.  The Senate is a different customer entirely.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has also said he wants to package energy and climate measures into a single bill. But forging ahead with a joint bill in the Senate, where 60 votes are required for almost all major bills, will likely be difficult, and some members have called for moving separate energy and climate packages.

Aldy today said he backs addressing the issues in an “integrated” manner but stopped short of saying whether it must be one unified bill.

“The president views energy, environment and climate change as all part of the challenge we are trying to face, and believe that it makes sense to try and address them in an integrated manner,” Aldy said. “We appreciate what the chairman has done in trying to craft as comprehensive a program as he can.

“Our view right now is we think we ought to try and address them all in tandem, because there are strong relationships between these different kinds of policies.”

Asked whether “in tandem” should mean one bill, Aldy replied, “However we can best move this through Congress we would like to move this through Congress. Right now, we are working on the Waxman bill, which looks at these issues all in one package.”

My prediction is that the Senate will ultimately split the climate bill out, and that this separate climate bill won’t make it to the Senate floor before 2010 — where it will, in fact, pass, assuming team Obama gets its act together (see “Obama can get a better climate bill in 2010“).

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10 Responses to White House efforts to get climate bill through House and Senate

  1. Harrier says:

    It seems to me that in the short-term, a renewable energy mandate will reduce our emissions more quickly than a cap-and-trade system.

  2. When I ask about solutions, scientists I meet will mumble “political will” This is a very small step forward, 8 years late.

  3. Pat Richards says:

    Since Cap and Trade is intended to appease the public with the appearance of doing something — but which will have even less genuine monitoring, compliance and enforcement than the banking industry did during the last 15 years — why are we even worried about how many carbon allowances are given away for free? Cap and Trade will become a derivatives-trading shell game on Wall Street where insider fortunes are made while very little if any actual *verifiable* CO2 reduction is achieved in the real world.

    Why is the green movement pretending that Carbon Credits/Allowances and Trading are viable solutions? These ideas were conceived of and sold to the world by the same financial wizards to brought us the global sub-prime lending disaster!

    Can’t we at least be honest with ourselves? Everyone knows that the only thing which will actually force industry to seriously reduce emissions would be strong and *rigorously enforced* laws stating precisely how much each plant or factory must reduce their emissions by a specific date — with no loophole provisions for last minute extensions and amendments to the limits like the Clean Air Act had.

    Anything less is a joke — just playing public relation games with this life and death issue. Instead of debating the fine points of how many carbon credits can dance on the bottom line of a corporate balance sheet, the green movement should be screaming bloody murder and protesting/fighting the very idea of Cap and Trade. If nothing else, we could at least insist that it be structured so that CO2 emissions are genuinely and dramatically reduced (which is not the case with the current proposals). We need to get the carbon OUT OF THE SYSTEM, not just turn it into something for hedge fund managers and corporate accountants to play paper games with!

  4. Sasparilla says:

    It will be very interesting to see what comes out of this in the end. As P. Richards points out, the cap n trade part will give the appearance of doing something – when at least early on (like it has in Europe) it probably won’t do much of anything – as we run out of time this appearance (of this issue being addressed, when in reality its not) can be very dangerous.

    There’s a part of me that says it would be better to not have a cap n trade at all if we can’t do one strong enough to get real traction in 2011 or 2012 etc. – so at least its out in the open to the public that we haven’t fixed this yet.

    The same danger lurks with a Copenhagen bill that doesn’t talk about and conditionally shoot for 450ppm or 2.0C ceilings, while giving the general public the feeling that “we’re fixing this” when in reality it won’t come close to doing the job.

    Once these agreements/bills are created the delayers/deniers will push back on any strengthening saying we’ve already fixed this…blah blah blah and could get some serious traction on that point. We really need this thing to have some strength initially (in a couple of years).

    Does it currently have rip-offsets in it? Anybody know?

  5. barbiplease says:

    Pat:

    You wrote:

    “Can’t we at least be honest with ourselves? Everyone knows that the only thing which will actually force industry to seriously reduce emissions would be strong and *rigorously enforced* laws stating precisely how much each plant or factory must reduce their emissions by a specific date — with no loophole provisions for last minute extensions and amendments to the limits like the Clean Air Act had.”

    While I share your concern about loopholes, carbon allowances, etc., through Cap and Trade, is it politically realistic to impose such rigorous laws as you suggest? Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for imposing tough laws on emissions with a heavy hand if I could. But given the kind of political and economic system that we have (not to mention the bipartisan backlash already uniting against Cap and Trade), how do you suppose that an alternative legislation would fare any better?

    My fear is that ultimately ANY type of climate legislation may be rigorously opposed by the American public and industries no matter what it is until it’s too late to do anything about it. It may be the case that sudden catastrophic climate change may have to occur before we will have the political will to address it…but then it will be too late.

  6. Doug Gibson says:

    Judging from these comments, I guess there’s little point in asking what people think of Jim Cooper’s Safe Markets Development Act. It sounds like it starts out with an all-auction system, but since Cooper’s one of the chief Blue Dogs, I’m suspicious.

  7. Roger says:

    My two cents: Neither our brains nor our social systems evolved in an environment that prepared us to deal effectively with this problem—so we are experiencing a dysfunctional response to this totally novel threat.

    What to do? Hmmm… let’s try to think creatively. What would we do if ‘an enemy’ were threatening to adversely control our climate in a way that would ‘take out’ California as a key agricultural state, and more…

    Maybe we need to alert our ignorant citizens to the ‘incoming’ and then declare a ‘war on climate disruption’ in order to preserve our planet! Isn’t this, after all, the moral equivalent of war, only on a global scale?

  8. Frank C. says:

    Commenters – READ the bill. The Cap and Trade portion is a small portion of the total carbon reduction; it’s a catch-all for what conservation can’t accomplish, and it can accomplish a lot, and that is in the bill.

  9. CTF says:

    I’d prefer to wait until 2010 if it means a better bill…

  10. Pangolin says:

    Joe,

    Could you please point us poor folks who don’t speak or read Washingtonese to a synopsis of how much of this climate bill will be spent on actually INSTALLING greenhouse gas reducing equipment. I see lots of money going to research this and support the agency for that and public education for the other but….. it’s putting up the wind turbines, solar panels and upgrading buildings that will stop the coal trains.

    How much of this money goes to getting the work done instead of ‘talking about getting the work done’ or ‘taxing other work to force you to do the work we want done?

    Does anybody have a clue?