Graham Drops Climate Bill

After nearly 6 months of planning, it appears that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has quit working on the latest climate change legislation bill, in lieu of a decision by the Obama administration and senate democrats to prioritize immigration reform [1].  The draft bill, which was also supported by senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) (hence the nickname KGL) has had some details leaked to the public over the past several months.  These included an overall cap on carbon dioxide emissions beginning in 2012, with the aim of reducing US carbon dioxide emissions 17% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Some measures to achieve these reductions include [2]:

  • Tax on transport fuels linked to the carbon content and price of carbon in other markets
  • Cap-and-trade scheme for some sectors, with a portion of the revenue redistributed to consumers as rebates
  • Price collar to maintain the price of carbon between $10-30/tC
  • $10 billion for clean coal [3]
  • Construction of 12 new nuclear power plants [3]

This latest setback comes on the heels of other recent climate change legislation, most notably the American Clean Energy and Security Act (sponsored by Rep. Henry Waxman [D-CA]).  The ACESA had proposed to reduce carbon emissions 20% by 2020 and 83% by 2050 (relative to 2005).  Although the proposed legislation passed the House 219-212 [4], the bill has since languished in senate committees and is unlikely to reemerge [5].

Garnering bi-partisan support for climate legislation is expected to be difficult (although another recent climate bill, supported by Susan Collins and Maria Cantwell is a laudable effort at bipartisanship [6]).  Disappointingly, some environmentalists groups opposed the KGL bill–most vocal was Greenpeace,  who blasted it complaining that it had been “hijacked by lobbyists” [3].  Given the concessions to industry, including a provision barring the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide, there may be some truth to this statement.  However, it is hard to imagine that a tougher bill would have any hope of passing congress–Kerry and Lieberman both scored 100% on the League of Conservation Voters environmental scorecard for 2009 [7].

Although the KGL bill does not do enough to address climate change, it is a significant step in more or less the right direction.  At a high level, the bill is not vastly different from the EU’s plan to cut carbon emissions by 20% (albeit from 1990 levels) by 2020.  The current price of carbon in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) has hovered between 12-14 euro ($16-19) since the Copenhagen summit in December.  This falls at the low end of the $10-30 price range proposed by KGL.  However, there is no guarantee that this bill will be passed this year, or indeed at all, and the carbon cap proposed would not even go into affect until 2012.  While the bickering about climate legislation in congress is bound to drag for months if not years, the Europeans have been paying for their pollution since January, 2005 [8].










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