Last week, the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee advanced a 930-page climate bill to the full Congress. The bill establishes a cap-and-trade system to regulate global warming causing emissions, requires an increase in renewable energy, and sets many new energy efficiency standards. It calls for an overall reduction in emissions by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050.
While the bill is historic in the sense that the Congress is finally trying to do something to address global warming, the bill is inadequate in several key areas.
The emission reductions have been criticized by Greenpeace, who says that substantially larger emissions reductions are needed, saying that at least 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80-95% by 2050 are the kind of cuts science demands.
Of the bill as a whole, a coalition of environmental groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth said:
As passed through the Energy & Commerce Committee, the American Clean Energy and Security Act sets targets for reducing pollution that are far weaker than science says is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. The targets are far less ambitious than what is achievable with already existing technology. They are further undermined by massive loopholes that could allow the most polluting industries to avoid real emission reductions until 2027. Rather than provide relief and support to consumers, the bill showers polluting industries with hundreds of billions of dollars in free allowances and direct subsidies that will slow renewable energy development and lock in a new generation of dirty coal-fired power plants. At the same time, the bill would remove the President’s authority to address global warming pollution using laws already on the books.
The public advocacy group Public Citizen further criticized the bill saying that it was influenced by backroom dealing and industry lobbyists at the expense of the citizenry. The result? A bill where polluting industries are left off the hook while working people are expected to pay increased energy rates.
Environmental journalist Jeffrey St. Clair and fellow journalist Joshua Frank wrote of the bill:
Not surprisingly, Obama refuses to consider strict regulation let alone a carbon tax to address the country’s big CO2 emitters. Instead, after intense pressure from the pollution lobby, Obama’s approach to attacking with climate change has been whittled down to nothing more than weak market-driven economics that can too easily be manipulated politically. Polluters will be let off the hook as they can simply relocate or build new infrastructure in places where there are few or no carbon regulations.
Moreover, the bill gives away many of the pollution credits which undermines the very market approach they are trying to use, according to Public Citizen:
Europe’s experience shows that when the right to pollute is given free to energy companies, nations fail to meet their emissions caps and price signals in the carbon trading markets are undermined. While we can understand providing some allowances to energy-intensive domestic manufacturing industries that are subject to fierce international competition, the same cannot be said for oil refiners or coal utilities. The bottom line is that this thwarts the very goal of curbing global warming.
The big problem with the bill before Congress is that it accepts the logic that the very “free markets” that caused global warming, can put a stop to the problem by altering their behavior through market-based incentives. According to the “cap-and-trade” plan, companies will have a double incentive to reduce pollution because they will have a limited amount of pollution credits and can sell what they don’t use on a “carbon market.”
These “cap and trade” plans have bee criticized by environmental radicals () who charge that they have not worked in Europe and that they are not strict enough. Along with the “cap and trade” system, the bill also includes funding for carbon capture sequestration (CCS)–an unproven technology that the polluting coal industry clings to as its last lifeline.
Instead of market-based approaches and unproven technologies, real change in our lifestyles and our economy are needed–not just token gestures.
Unfortunately, while that may be true, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in going that route at this point. All too many progressives and liberals are willing to accept a watered down climate bill because they think it is “the best we can get” rather than going the more difficult route of building a strong movement for climate justice.