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Is There a Republican Alternative to Cap and Trade?

November 4, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

With a Republican House and a shrunken Democratic majority in the Senate, one of the big Democratic policy goals that we can safely kiss goodbye for the next few years is a cap-and-trade climate change bill. But with the uncertainty of 2012 and the pressing nature of the climate issue, Obama and the Democrats will probably still want to do something in the next session of Congress to make progress on the issue, even if it’s not as strong as they want. Here’s a look at where Democrats and Republicans could find agreement on climate change action.

There are a few bills with Republican support in Congress right now that are designed to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. They include Sen. George Voinovich’s [R, OH] “Enabling the Nuclear Renaissance Act” (S.3618) and Sen. Maria Cantwell’s [D, WA]CLEAR Act” (S.2877). But these aren’t really comprehensive, and they don’t seem to have deep enough support to pass the divided Senate next year.

The one bill that seems to have deep Republican support that some Democrats could conceivably get behind as at least a step in the right direction is Sen. Richard Lugar’s [R, IN] “Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act of 2010” (S. 3464). Its co-sponsors include Sen. Lindsey Graham [R, SC], who was one of the central players in climate bill negotiations last year (though he ended up backing out), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK], who has taken more money from electric, oil and gas companies than just about anyone else and typically leads efforts against any energy legislation that the utilities don’t like.

This bill’s designed to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, make energy consumption in the U.S. more efficient, and shut down some of the dirtiest power plants. Lugar estimates that it would accomplish “nearly half the president’s 2020 greenhouse gas emissions goal,” though there is no mechanism in the bill specifically for ensuring that any targets are met.

It would establish benchmarks for industries to diversify their energy sources away from coal, but it’s designed to be flexible and to allow states to grant temporary waivers to companies that say that they will catch up with requirements in the future. The baselines for diversification range from 15% by 2019 to 50% by 2050. Under the bill, diversified energy sources include solar, geothermal, wind and hydropower, but it would also allow some more controversial sources to qualify, including, nuclear, biomass, and “advanced coal.” Old fossil-fuel dependent plants would be allowed to opt out of the diversification requirements if the sign an agreement to cease operations by 2019. This could have the effect of exempting these plants for several years from any new EPA emissions requirements that could encourage them to shut down sooner rather than pay for the necessary upgrades.

In order to increase energy efficiency, the bill would set up a new federal-state partnership for helping energy-intensive industries finance transitions to more efficient technologies and processes. It would also set up new national minimum targets for energy efficiency in new building construction and help homeowners retrofit their homes.

Another major provision in the bill would revise vehicle fuel efficiency standards to be approximately in-line with recent EPA proposals. The bill would codify the Obama fuel efficiency standards proposal of May 2010 (a fleet-wide average of 35 miles per gallon by 2016), and then raise that standard by 4% every year thereafter. That would mean the standard would be above 40 mpg by 2020. However, the bill allows the Transportation Secretary to issue a waiver if they determine that the efficiency standards are unachievable, and with car companies already saying the proposed new EPA targets are impossible, it’s easy to imagine the waiver being issued under the pretense of helping the already struggling auto manufacturers.

Needless to say, this bill is probably an insufficient response given the scientifically-verified urgency of the climate situation. But, considering the political realities, for action from Congress over the next few years, it’s probably something like this or nothing. The question then, as always with these kinds of compromises, is is it worth it now, or should we hold out?

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Comments

DerkEMeister 11/04/2010 2:15pm

Cap and trade IS the Republican alternative.

The “Cap and Trade” idea originated with the Republican party back around 1990. The cap and trade idea found overwhelming bipartisan support as the alternative to the Democrat preferred command-and-control approach. “Cap and Trade” was used in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments to reduce acid rain. The program has reduced SO2 emissions, by over 40%, faster and at far lower costs than anticipated, yielding wide-ranging health and environmental improvements. According to a 2003 OMB study, for every dollar spent on implementing this cap and trade program, 40 dollars are returned in health and environmental benefits. A 2005 EPA study estimated the program’s benefits at $122 billion annually in 2010, while cost estimates are around $3 billion annually (in 2000 dollars), only 1/4 of the originally estimated cost.

lpetrou 11/04/2010 11:18am

My comment is with the question itself. Your assumption is that we need some sort of cap and trade. Perhaps we should look at the question itself and ask if we do need a bill dealing with climate change. In some areas it has been argued and some cases proven that climate change is nothing that man can “cure” or “solve”. So before spending billions of money on a non issue might it be a better idea to look at all the evidence not just the evidence one side likes?

leomoon11 11/16/2010 7:20pm

Obama and the Democrats will probably still want to do something in the next session of Congress to make progress on the issue, even if it’s not as strong as they want. Here’s a look at where Democrats and Republicans could find agreement on climate change action.

Abaratarrr 11/04/2010 12:44pm

Donny by climate change do you mean global warming or global cooling, which one are we trying to stop?

HildaSuf 11/15/2010 10:55am
“McCarthy stressed that the new guidelines are not regulations but merely information meant to help states figure out cost-effective ways to reduce the pollutants that cause climate change when issuing new air pollution permits.” – Lord have mercy on America – the feds cheerleader misrepresents the truth just like this neo-democrat socialist administration, supporting the European model/lie of “preserving the planet” rather than individual, state determined survival.

And while most states have signed on with EPA’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, Texas, which is the leading greenhouse gas producer in the nation, has refused to meet the new federal guidelines. GOOD FOR TEXAS – representatives that want to serve the people would suggest the the same – people need to fight against federal power & control.

HildaSuf 11/15/2010 11:01am
If you live in Defiance, Ohio – or have noticed a non-funded EPA mandate charge on your utility bill – Rep. Latta is trying to help: - latta.house-gov/News – LATTA SIGNS LETTER ASKING FOR PROMPT REVIEW OF EPA MANDATES FOR LOCAL WATER AND SEWER INFRASTRUCTURE REQUIREMENTS

Washington, Sep 29- … “These requirements are often centered on mandates from the EPA requiring local governments to upgrade their current water infrastructure systems with no assistance in covering the financial costs of these upgrades…The U.S. EPA must take a serious look at their requirements and start working with local governments to find a solution that will continue to provide clean water to communities while keeping costs reasonable,” Latta stated after signing the letter.

HildaSuf 11/15/2010 11:03am

LATTA STATEMENT ON JOBS-KILLING EPA REGULATION –
“…The proposed rule coming from the EPA is nothing more than a backdoor national energy tax that will cripple our manufacturing base. In Ohio, this rule would have a projected tax hike of $69.2 billion and the potential to lose over 296,000 manufacturing jobs, on top of the current 10.1 percent unemployment rate in the state. This is the last thing Ohio and our country needs in this time of economic uncertainty. Whether it is the flawed Cap and Tax proposal put forth by Congressional Democrats, or this EPA regulation, Democrats in Washington are once again showing how out of touch they are with reality. If the President is serious about saving and creating jobs, he should start with his own EPA and its jobs-killing regulations."

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