All week I've been trying to decide what to write about the upcoming vote on HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). The U.S. House is scheduled to vote today, so I better not delay any longer.
Some arguments for and against the bill are after the jump.
Al Gore and most of the big environmental organizations are encouraging people to ask Congress to vote yes on ACES. A letter to Congress urging passage was signed by an impressive list of groups:
Alliance for Climate Protection, American Rivers, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Ceres, Clean Water Action, Climate Solutions, Defenders of Wildlife, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Environmental Working Group, Fresh Energy, Interfaith Power and Light, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of the United States, National Audubon Society, National Parks Conservation Association, The National Hispanic Environmental Council, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Oxfam America, Pew Environment Group, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Environmental Law Center, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, Union of Concerned Scientists
On the other hand, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have come out against the bill, and their arguments look very strong to me. Click here for the statement from Greenpeace and here for the statement from Friends of the Earth.
I have talked to several people this week who follow climate change policy more closely than I do, and they still believe that on balance we are better off if ACES passes. They fear that if a cap-and-trade framework doesn't pass this year, it never will. They hope that the renewable energy targets and other portions of the bill could be strengthened in the future, especially as more evidence about global warming emerges.
Bill Scher made the case for supporting this bill here.
I agree with Darcy Burner that there are good arguments for voting either for or against the bill.
From where I'm sitting, it looks like this bill gives away a lot to corporate polluters and does nothing more for renewable energy than what would happen anyway. Coal will receive more subsidies, even though it is the worst fossil fuel for greenhouse gas emissions. The amendment process in the Senate will only make the bill worse.
I see no realistic chance for future improvements once President Obama and Congress are able to take credit for pretending to solve global warming. If anything, future Congresses are likely to water down the bill's targets even more as 2020 and 2030 approach. But of course, companies that profit from expanding coal and nuclear power in the short term will already have their money in the bank.
If I were in Congress, I would vote against this bill. It won't take effect until 2012 anyway. If Obama wants to claim he kept his campaign promises on climate change, let him come back to Congress on this issue next year and be more engaged in the process. People like House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson have gotten everything they've asked for. There has been no progressive bloc in the House drawing a line in the sand on ACES the way the Progressive Caucus has done on health care reform. As a result, the amendments have made the bill steadily worse.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu admits that this bill wouldn't put us on track to solve the climate change problem.
Chris Bowers thinks contacting Congress at this point is hopeless, because they had the votes to pass ACES two days ago.
On the other hand, if it makes you feel better to contact Congress, by all means do so. The only member of the Iowa delegation whose vote on ACES seems to be in doubt is Leonard Boswell. (Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack will almost certainly vote yes, and Tom Latham and Steve King will definitely vote no.) The phone number for Boswell's Washington office is (202) 225-3806.
Final note: I want to give credit to the Iowa politicians and activists who tried to make this bill better. That includes Braley and Governor Chet Culver, who lobbied for a strong renewable electricity standard. Although they did not succeed in getting better language into this bill, they fought the good fight.
On the other hand, everything Boswell asked for would have made the bill worse from the perspective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I never heard him advocate for a single thing to make the bill stronger. That's what I'll remember, whether or not Boswell votes for ACES today.
UPDATE: Thanks to the reader who informed me that Boswell said he will vote for this bill.
The American Farm Bureau is telling members of Congress to vote yes on Collin Peterson's amendment but no on the bill as a whole. The worst possible position.
SECOND UPDATE: A friend wrote me a thoughtful e-mail. Excerpt (with the friend's permission):
Nonetheless, while acknowledging its numerous faults, I remain supportive of the bill. First, I think that there are some helpful measures within it that have gone underreported such as higher appliance standards, better building codes, and the establishment of a smart grid. Second, while a 20% renewable standard by 2020 means little for Iowa, it is significant progress for states like Kentucky who use next to no renewable energy. Third, I feel it is important that we pass some sort of climate legislation prior to Copenhagen in December so that the administration has a starting point for international negotiations, especially with China and India. Third, I feel that it is important to officially lay out reductions goals in order to establish accountability for future efforts. Fourth, I feel that this represents a first step in the right direction, even if it is a small one. If trends continue, in the coming years the effects of climate change will become even more apparent. Furthermore, there is a generational divide on this issue, and as a different political
generation takes the reigns there is a greater chance that this legislation will be strengthened. Finally, I think there is value in writing to legislators regarding this legislation. The fact that they do not hear enough from their constituents on the issue of climate change makes it very easy for them not to make the difficult decisions needed to resolve the problem.