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16 Times Louder

May 21st, 2009 · 1 Comment

This evening, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act out for consideration by the rest of the House.

This bill is filled with good … and bad elements. It has strong provisions for improving energy efficiency in the United States, a weak renewable energy standard, and massive (MASSIVE) direct and indirect subsidies and payoffs for the fossil fuel industries.

This is a challenging moment.

There are environmental organizations cheering from the rooftops. There are environmental organizations declaring their opposition. And, there are those vowing to fight even harder.

Some reactions

There has been a range of reaction to E&C’s passage of ACES.

There is President Obama’s quite strong statement.

I commend Chairman Waxman and the Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee for a successful effort to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill out of their committee today. We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil, crack down on polluters, and create millions of new jobs all across America. The bill is historic for what it achieves, providing clean energy incentives that encourage innovation while recognizing the concerns of sensitive industries and regions in this country. And this achievement is all the more historic for bringing together many who have in the past opposed a common effort, from labor unions to corporate CEOs, and environmentalists to energy companies. I applaud the committee for its action and look forward to signing comprehensive legislation.

Sierra Club issued a nuanced statement:

Moving a comprehensive clean energy jobs plan through a committee historically dominated by those with ties to the oil, coal, and other polluting industries is a laudable victory and truly historic accomplishment. Chairmen Waxman and Markey have led the way and it is certain that this feat never could have happened without their extraordinary leadership. They have long been champions for the environmental movement and we congratulate them on achieving this critically important milestone. This bill puts the U.S. on the path to slash the carbon emissions that cause global warming 80 percent by 2050, a signal accomplishment necessary to preserve the planet for future generations.

“While the plan approved by the committee establishes a sound framework for achieving its vital goals, Big Oil, Big Coal, and dirty power companies like Southern Company extracted a steep price at the expense of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other provisions critical to protecting both the planet and the public interest. As this piece of legislation moves forward we will work with our allies to mount a vigorous effort to strengthen this bill in a few fundamental areas

Greenpeace is less restrained in its criticism

Greenpeace is calling for renewed leadership from President Obama and Congress following the release of the drastically weakened Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill today. The American Climate and Energy Security Act (ACES) was already in need of improvement when first released as a discussion draft in March, and has become severely worse as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee actively worked to weaken the bill on behalf of fossil fuels industries and other corporate polluters

There are a wide range of reactions out there, from celebrating fossil-fuel companies and some “environmental organizations” popping champagne corks in celebration to environmental activists throwing away vodka caps in despair.

Among these reactions, one stands out at the moment.

Wow Gillian

Amid all the reactions, One Sky‘s Gillian Caldwell has one of the most interesting and passionate of organizational reactions to ACES passage so far this evening.

“By passing the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009
introduced as H.R. 2454 (ACES), [1] the Energy and Commerce Committee has taken an historic first step toward America’s clean energy future.

Okay, politeness says that you start with praise.

“We believe that the ACES bill introduced by Chairmen Henry A. Waxman (CA-30) and Edward J. Markey (MA-7) is the only viable legislative opportunity we have before the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December of 2009 to move the United States toward a clean energy economy that will create jobs, strengthen our economy, make us more energy independent, and limit dangerous global warming pollution.

One of the real challenges in trying to figure out how to react to ACES is this: what is the import of acting before Copenhagen, is there any other opportunity, and what will the reaction be if ACES is the law of the land.

Representatives Waxman and Markey have worked tirelessly day and night to try to deliver a bill that will provide a clean energy future.

Do you need help in finding the critical words here: “to try”. Waxman and Markey tried, they truly did, even if they didn’t do so.

“However, it is clear given the changes since the discussion draft that Big Oil, Dirty Coal, and other polluters are continuously working to weaken the bill and secure funds and bailouts for their industries on the backs of American consumers.

Let’s put Gillian’s comments in perspective.

Fiscal analysis of the 85% of carbon pollution permits that are to be given away results in, from 2012 through 2030, $1 trillion 61 billion dollars in direct and indirect subsidies for fossil fuels against $127.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Have to wonder why “Clean Energy” is in the title. Would it be more appropriate to entitle it Coal Subsidy Act?

How did this happen?

In the last three months alone, oil, coal, and natural gas companies have outspent environmental groups 16 to 1. The industries spent $79 million to lobby Congress, outspending the Green community’s comparatively meager $4.7 million in the same time period. Exxon-Mobil alone spent $9.3 million, over twice the amount of money spent by the entire environmental community combined.

At the end of the day, it seems likely that One Sky’s analysis understates the full extent of that lobbying. What about the funding of think tanks? The expenditure of resources to support articles and studies? Organizational (US Chamber of Commerce) efforts?

Even so, Exxon-Mobil alone spent more than all the environmental organizations combined?

As this bill moves through Congress, 1Sky is resolved to be 16 times louder, and will count on the power and resolve of ordinary citizens from all walks of life, channeling their voices in ways that move and improve this bill, to make up for the disparity in the financial resources we have to apply to the task.

This is what got me. That “1Sky is resolved to be 16 times louder.”

It is well past time for loud civic action calling not “for climate legislation”, not for “80 by 2050”, but for meaningful legislation that lives up to three basic principles:

1. Scientifically Sound
2. Polluters Pay
3. Equitably Socially

Theser are simple principles, principles that the American people could support. But the case must be made — to the citizens and, through them, the members of Congress.

“While frustration from many in the climate and environmental community about the compromises made to get this bill out of the Energy and Commerce Committee are understandable,

Yes, Gillian, our “frustration [is] understandable”. Actual, it is outrage and horror.

we believe it is critical to channel this energy constructively to achieve the win upon which our survival and prosperity depends.

This, we should strive to do. “Channel … energy constructively” rather than going silently into the night (okay, not silently — howling at the moon, perhaps).

We must pass U.S. climate and energy legislation strong enough to demonstrate U.S. leadership and strengthen our negotiating power to bring in other heavy emitters like China and India to an international treaty.

“Strong enough …” Another basic principle that ACES fails to meet.

“1Sky and our allies look forward to working with members of Congress to explore every opportunity to strengthen the bill on the House floor and beyond, and to ensure that the President has the necessary tools to broker a fair and effective global climate agreement in Copenhagen in December of 2009. We also urge the White House and our champion President Obama to demonstrate even more robust leadership in helping ensure that our Congress delivers bold energy and climate policy that gets the job done.”



Robust leadership.

And, yes Congress, “deliver bold energy and climate policy that gets the job done.”

Sadly, with all due respect to Chairman Waxman and Chairman Markey, ACES doesn’t merit that description.

Time to figure out how to be 16 times louder

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Tags: climate change · Congress · Energy · energy efficiency · environmental · global warming deniers · politics

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