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Markey, Waxman Unveil Plan to Avert Climate Catastrophe

My understanding of the informal division of labor on the Hill is that the House of Representatives is going to mostly take its cues on health care from legislation drafted in the Senate, while the House is going to try to drive the conversation forward on cap and trade. Reps Henry Waxman and Ed Markey have gotten the ball rolling this week with a mammoth climate bill. Read the whole thing, if you dare, in this PDF that runs to over 600 pages or check out this summary. Joe Romm proclaims it “pretty good” and Kate Sheppard explains the topline emissions reductions:

It calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, 42 percent by 2030, and 83 percent by 2050. The Obama team has put forward a goal of 14 percent cuts by 2020 and 80 percent cuts by mid-century, making the House bill slightly more aggressive. […] The draft includes a number of renewable energy and efficiency provisions. It calls for a renewable electricity standard of 6 percent starting in 2012, scaling up to 25 percent by 2025. It also would create new energy efficiency programs for appliances, support for home energy retrofits, measures to improve building codes, and calls for efforts to improve the efficiency of industrial processes. It also includes measures to spur the use of plug-in electric vehicles. […]

The bill would also put in place new emissions standards for coal-fired power plants that come on-line between 2009 and 2015. New plants permitted after Jan. 1, 2015, would need to emit less than 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of output, and the standards ramp up again for plants approved after 2020. The bill also includes efforts to accelerate progress on carbon-capture-and-sequestration, adopted from a measure put forward by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), the House’s leading proponent of the technology.

There are two main shortcomings of the bill. One is that it doesn’t prescribe auctioning of its carbon permits. If the permits are auctioned, it’s possible to make the pocketbook impact on most Americans small or even positive. If the permits are given away to polluters, then that’s much better for the polluters but much worse for normal people.

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The other, even more serious problem, is that as Dick Durbin says he can’t get 60 votes for it. And not to be too pessimistic, but it’s hard to imagine there being 60 votes for a good climate bill emerging in anything like the needed time frame.