Get Energy Smart! NOW!

Blogging for a sustainable energy future.

Get Energy Smart!  NOW! header image 2

Climate Bill 2009: Top priority or …?

January 9th, 2009 · 2 Comments

To be or not to be? That is a question already surrounding the issue of climate legilslation for action in 2009, even before the Obama Administration takes office. When question, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stated the votes are there in the House, but that she wouldn’t commit to 2009 action. Ed Markey (Chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and chair of the Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment in the Energy and Commerce Committee) said that timing on action was “to be determined”. Some organizations are already pushing back, making a call for action. 1Sky, for example, made a direct call for placing a climate bill on the top of the pile.

A question to wonder: Is this the best approach for this time, for this moment?

I’m simply not sure …

The entire financial wreck and the inadequacies of post-crash management/oversight highlights a very serious issue related to Cap & Trade: all of the associated costs for monitoring, oversite regimes, and the (HIGH) potential for abuse that creates gross inefficiencies.

There is a very simple shorthand differentiating “tax” and “cap”:

  • Tax provides a certainty of revenue but an uncertainty of impact
  • CAP (Auction and Trade, or CAT) provides (it is said) a certainty as to impact (maximum pollution) with an uncertainty as to revenue generation.

In the past, I’ve been supportive of a low/growing guaranteed fee (fee much better word than tax, see Global Warming Impact) associated with a Cap/Auction/Trade policy. Considering the shenigans surrounding Wall Street, a convincing case seems to be developing that the United States might simply be unable to put into place, at this time, an effective enforcement regime at an acceptable cost re a CAP (or CAT)

Based on the experiences with the Lieberman/Warner Coal Subsidy Act (no, not just my cat fight with Environmental Defense) and the ‘Green Groups’ (and others’) inability to provide a strong voice as to the economic value of moving out smartly in the face of NAM/ACCF and others’ lies, it is uncertain that there will be enough strength of voice to be able to sway ‘moderates’ into something strong enough in targets. And, then there is the question of how well even a weak (inadequate target) bill will be able to structure something against leakage, in any event. And, so on …

Will the Obama Administration will have the resources to put together a strong enough effort in this arena to mute the $100s of millions from USCOC, NAM, etc about the ‘damage to the economy’ that has a hearing with ‘moderate’ Democrats like Jim Webb and new members of Congress like the otherwise progressive Eric Massa.

Considering these issues, it is hard to be motivated to jump on a bandwagon to push strongly for a Cap & Trade as the top item on the agenda.

Yes, climate legislation is a “good” thing … but it is not enough nor, perhaps, should it be the top priority.

The Trojan Horse approach to addressing climate change might be the more powerful, efficent and smarter route to follow.

Seek very strong action in energy efficiency / renewables / shifting foreign assistance toward sustainability (especially in IMF and WB guidance/action) to achieve meaningful real near-term impacts and then using those successes as a ’see, cleaning up the environment is profitable’ to help enable a meaningful Cap & Trade.

I would much (MUCH) prefer to see energy going into fighting for a much (MUCH) greener stimulus package, something that will have real impact both in economic and climate terms. A fight not for token energy efficiency ($16 billion proposed in a Washington Post ad by a coalition yesterday), but multiples of that. (Such as, just for private (residential and commercial) building infrastructure, the $170 billion of the Architecture 2030 plan.). A fight for a Gore or Google-like target for renewable energy infrastructure (100% clean electricity) by 2019 or by 2029 rather than the Obama plan’s stated 25 percent by 2025. If we engage, push energy for a Cap & Trade plan now (rather than expending 99+% of energy on making the stimulus package as strong and forward-looking and as GREEN as possible), we really risk losing too much in the coming weeks/months to the fossil fools and others.

Now, if I’m uncertain, what do you think a broader community might be like?

Now, I stand ready to be convinced of the error of my ways … thus, convince me!

Tags: Congress · Energy · Global Warming · analysis · climate change · climate legislation · government energy policy · politics

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Richad Mercer // Jan 10, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    “Seek very strong action in energy efficiency / renewables / shifting foreign assistance toward sustainability (especially in IMF and WB guidance/action) to achieve meaningful real near-term impacts and then using those successes as a ’see, cleaning up the environment is profitable’ to help enable a meaningful Cap & Trade”

    I agree. If it takes time to iron out cap and trade or other system that will work at least it won’t be a waste of time that only fools people into thinking it is effective.

    I think it’s more important to get moving on renewable energy development, and energy efficiency and a smart grid.
    After all, nothing will advance the cause of reducing emissions faster than replacing coal plants with clean energy and increasing energy efficiency and conservation.

  • 2 Michael // Jan 14, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I agree that since the stimulus will be the top priority until it is passed, the top priority of enviros should be to green it.

    However, we must lay the groundwork for a strong climate change bill so that when debate does take place later this year (I hope) or sometime next year (I fear), we will be set up for success.

Leave a Comment