Lieberman-Warner moved from morgue to anatomy class

Although still dead, the L-W climate bill remains a subject of morbid curiosity. Now that its body has been donated to science, L-W will probably get as much attention as a certain season finale also about anatomy.

Grist has kindly posted the version of the L-W bill that will go to the Senate floor (through the miracle of Scribd here). This is the “substitute amendment” by Senate Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to the Climate Security Act.

In dissecting the bill, let’s start with Title V, Subtitle C: Emergency Off-Ramps.

If the price of carbon allowances reaches a certain price range, there is a mechanism that will automatically release additional emission allowances onto the market to lower the price. The additional allowances are borrowed so that the environmental integrity of the caps over the long term is protected.”

We see here that the bill was rushed to the emergency room in a desperate attempt to save the bill from the safety valve. Yes, borrowing is a better idea than the safety valve (see A Better Idea Than the “Safety Valve”), but the patient is left with a medical mystery that would even intrigue the Sherlock Holmes of diagnosticians, Dr. Gregory House — what is meant by “a certain price range”?


If that price range is anywhere near $30 a ton of carbon (and rising each year), then the coroner’s original cause of death, “apathy,” will prove to be well justified (though justifiable homicide would also be a plausible verdict). If it is closer to $30 a ton of carbon dioxide (and rising each year), we may have to look elsewhere. [For a critique of the greenhouse gas target, see A Siegel here.]

Interestingly, with the body still warm, we almost forgot about the deceased’s will. But in a move whose generosity will warm the hearts of everyone but the coldest conservatives, the bill creates the largest bequest in history — $5.6 trillion from now through 2050 — to boost clean energy and to satisfy various interest groups. Let’s look at the astonishing array of beneficiaries Boxer’s amendment provides (all dollars are cumulative through 2050):

  • $190 billion [through 2050] To Funding Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training Program, and a new Climate Change Worker Assistance Program

[Thumbs Up: We will need a lot of skilled workers to make those 14 wedges happen.]

  • Carbon intensive manufacturing industries will receive $213 billion through 2050 to help them adjust to the cap and trade program

[Thumbs Sidewise: Depends on how the money is allocated. Sadly, President Bush has gutted the key federal program aimed at jointly developing and deploying low carbon technologies with the carbon-intensive industries. I’d use part of this money to revive that program.]

  • nearly $800 billion tax relief fund, which will help consumers in need of assistance related to energy costs.

[Thumbs Up: Conservatives are always complaining that carbon policies will hurt the poor, so I can only assume they will embrace this wholeheartedly. Ideally, some of this money will go towards weatherization programs that cut the energy bills of consumers.]

  • $911 billion to consumers through local electricity and gas utilities … to ensure that consumers are protected from increases in energy costs, and to promote low carbon energy, and energy efficiency

[Thumbs Up: What a Rudy-Giuliani-esque amount of money. Since we already have the tax relief fund, most of this should go towards energy efficiency.]

  • $254 billion to states that rely heavily upon manufacturing and coal, to help them transition to a low-carbon economy.

[Thumps Sort of Up: Can’t fight the inevitable.]

  • $307 billion in transition assistance for fossil electric utilities to help them transition to the new low-carbon economy
  • $34 billion in transition assistance for petroleum refiners
  • $20 billion in transition assistance for Natural Gas producers

[Thumbs start to wonder if they can get transition assistance.]

  • $171 billion to funding for mass transit.

[Thumbs say “Duh!” (Using American Sign Language).]

  • $300 billion to support agriculture and forestry programs that cut emissions but don’t qualify to be used as offsets

[Thumbs Down: Thumbs can’t imagine what such programs would be. The offsets allowed in L-W are more than enough, not even counting the biofuels programs.]

  • $237 billion for state wildlife adaptation programs

[Thumbs wonder if we can set up some luxury condoes for the Grolar Bears.]

  • $ 30.7 billion to reward companies that have taken early action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

[Thumbs think this is not a bad idea, but can’t imagine how anyone could figure out .who deserves this money.]

  • $51 billion for energy-efficient buildings
  • $51 billion for “the superefficient equipment and appliances deployment program”

[Thumbs say “If the polluters get paid, then why not?” (in ASL). ]

  • $51 billion to support manufacturers that achieve high energy efficiency gains

[T.D. Double counting. This is really the same thing as the helping the carbon intensive manufacturing industries.]

  • $150 billion to owners or operators of facilities that deploy renewable energy technologies.
  • $92 billion to assist in deploying low carbon electricity technology, including nuclear power

[Thumbs sideways: Thumbs have no trouble incentivizing emerging technologies that are taken off the list once they achieve, say, 1% of electricity generation. But relatively mature technologies shouldn’t need any extra incentive beyond a carbon price — this means you, nuclear power!]

  • $17 billion thorugh 2050 for advanced energy research

[Thumbs wonder what Shellenberger and Nordhaus will think of such crumbs for breakthroughs.]

  • $15.7 billion for coal with carbon capture and storage
  • $68 billion to help auto companies retool facilities to build advanced vehicles
  • $26 billion four cellulosic biofuels

[Thumbs offer no objection.]

  • $68 billion for deforestation and-prevention activities for countries which are not yet capable of participating in the offset program

[Thumbs are puzzled by this but, being thumbs, they have a very short attention span and can’t trouble themselves to figure out what this could possibly refer to.]

  • $342 billion to support international adaptation and to protect national security

[Thumbs like international adaptation funds, but would like to hear more details about this “national security” stuff. Thumbs wonder if this will go to hire border security agents to keep keep the hundreds of millions of dollars of environmental refugees created by climate change out of this country? Or is it to help the Navy figure out how to design ports that can deal with 6 inches of sea level rise per decade for centuries? Inquiring thumbs want to know.]