It was possible tonight, for the first time, to see the broad outline — and some details — of the nation’s first major climate and energy bill.
A key component is a mandate that utilities must produce at least 20% of their electricity from renewable sources (such as solar, wind or biogas) by the year 2020. Actually, there’s a little wiggle room in there. The utilities can generate just 15% from renewables, if they can make up for the other 5% by increasing efficiency.
The bill will also grant US automakers a substantial, but as yet indeterminate, incentive (read: money) to spur production of electric vehicles.
A cap-and-trade program to lower emissions of CO2 also will come out of the committee. The all-important details of just how that system will work, is the subject of talks continuing this evening in Washington, a committee staffer tells the Phoenix Sun.
Even with these unknowns, many Democrats, and some environmental groups, are already applauding the bill.
At a press conference about the president’s health care initiative earlier today, President Obama began his remarks with praise for movement on the climate and energy front. The president said:
“I want to take a moment, before I start talking about health care, just to congratulate Chairman Waxman and the Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats, who’ve made such extraordinary progress in reaching a deal on comprehensive energy reform and climate legislation. This is a major step forward in building the kind of clean energy economy that will reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.
“And I once again call on Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution, which will then drive and incent for the kind of innovation and dynamic, new, clean energy economy that can create jobs and new businesses all across America.”
This afternoon, League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski also praised the bill:
“Chairmen Waxman and Markey have worked tirelessly to bring forward a crucial and historic bill that will move America towards a clean, safe energy future. Their bill will create new clean energy jobs, improve our national security, and help protect the planet. We encourage the House Energy and Commerce Committee to quickly send this bill to the House floor, where we look forward to working with Members of both sides of the aisle to strengthen it, in particular by increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy provisions.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi added her support in a statement issued later in the afternoon:
“The bill will use the same bipartisan, American solution we used to successfully fight acid rain and protect our air and water. It will provide a framework that will unlock the power of private sector investment, which has been waiting for government leadership to match government investment.
“This bill will create entire new industries in the United States-while preserving the manufacturing base that has been the foundation of our economy, helping industries such as steel, glass, and cement remain competitive in the global marketplace, and pioneering cleaner coal technologies for use here and around the world.
“This bill will strengthen our national security and make America a strong world leader in the new technologies to fight climate change.
Representative Joe Barton of Texas, the senior Republican member on the panel, has vowed to fight any bill that includes a cap-and-trade provision. Barton, who has indicated he does not believe global warming has been conclusively linked to human behavior, is pushing to include nuclear power as a renewable resource.
The full committee is scheduled to begin marking up the bill next Monday, May 18. The session will be webcast live at www.energycommerce.house.gov.