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US House passes Energy and Climate bill, environmentalists says it's too weak


Creative Commons License Photo credit: jurvetson

This past Friday the House of Representatives in USA voted yes to the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, a cap-and-trade energy bill, by a vote of 219 to 212. This historic climate change bill will require limits on pollution responsible for man-made climate change and it will help USA create a green economy, if it also gets thumbs up in the Senate.

“After a tense debate, in which the margin of success or failure never moved beyond a handful of votes, the House of Representatives passed the most sweeping climate change policy ever considered by Congress early Friday evening,
the Huffington Post

The outcome had remained up in the air up until the actual vote, with the White House and the president himself engaging in a heavy lobbying campaign aimed at restoring Democratic Party unity that seemed to be fracturing.”

President Barack Obama said in his weekly address that this new bill will help “create green jobs, ensure clean air for our children, move towards energy independence and combat climate change.”

Steve Bouchard, Campaign Manager for Repower America, said in a statement after the vote that the House of Representatives had just passed a “landmark bill that will propel our nation toward a clean energy future.” But Bouchard also warned that the fight wasn’t over yet:

“It's not over though. The debate moves on to the Senate where our opponents will redouble their efforts. There will be more distortions and foot dragging, but the momentum is on our side.

Today, we have something to celebrate. For the first time in decades, we have taken bold action to help solve the climate crisis.”

But not everyone is happy about the bill. Republicans have complained that the energy bill is just a new “energy tax” and falsely claims it will cost households in USA $3,100 every year. The Daily Green reports:

“This debate has sprung largely from a Republican misreading (why not be generous?) of an MIT study that led pundits and politicians to cry about the perils of a new "energy tax" that might cost American households $3,100 every year. (Though that claim has been thoroughly debunked, I seem to hear it every other Saturday in the Republican response to President Obama's weekly address.) The author of the MIT study puts the cost at $800, while the conservative Heritage Foundation estimated the annual cost at $1,500 and the Environmental Protection Agency estimated the cost at just $140 or lower.”

Thomas Friedman, author of the book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded – Why We Need a Green Revolution – And How it Can Renew America”, writes on the New York Times that he thinks the energy bill is a “mess” and that it “stinks”. Friedman blames the Republicans, President Barack Obama and “We the People” for being responsible for such a weak bill. But he still calls for the Senate to pass the bill:

“Why? Because, for all its flaws, this bill is the first comprehensive attempt by America to mitigate climate change by putting a price on carbon emissions. Rejecting this bill would have been read in the world as Americavoting against the reality and urgency of climate change and would have undermined clean energy initiatives everywhere.

More important, my gut tells me that if the U.S. government puts a price on carbon, even a weak one, it will usher in a new mind-set among consumers, investors, farmers, innovators and entrepreneurs that in time will make a big difference — much like the first warnings that cigarettes could cause cancer. The morning after that warning no one ever looked at smoking the same again.”

In advance of the vote on the American Clean Energy and Security Act in the House of Representatives, Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director Carroll Muffett said that the bill “chooses politics over science” and that it “elevates industry interests over national interest.” She even called for the Congress to reject the bill and instead begin “immediate and urgent work on legislation that treats seriously the dire threat of climate change”.

“As it comes to the floor, the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions. To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history. We simply no longer have the time for legislation this weak.

[…]This legislation sends a strong and unmistakable signal to the world that the United States is not yet ready to show the leadership necessary to reach a strong agreement at Copenhagen in December. Already, we are seeing the impact of this signal as one country after another retreats from the aggressive targets needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.”

In a response to the thumbs up for the energy bill in the House of Representatives Muffett called the bill “a victory” for coal, oil and other dirty industry lobbyists. She also said that “it is a tremendous loss for the American people and for the world in our common fight to avert climate catastrophe.”

“To avoid the worst effects of global warming, we must reduce emissions by 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020, and the short term target of this bill is a paltry 4%. The massive offsets in this bill means that we can continue at our current emissions level for years, and huge giveaways mean a new generation of nuclear and coal plants.

Unless the bill is substantially strengthened in the Senate, we have a lot more work ahead of us. We are calling upon President Obama to use every tool at his disposal, both within and outside Congress, to get us back to the science-based targets he promised.”

The energy and climate bill has a long way to go before becoming law as it has to pass voting in the Senate were more right-wingers, lobbyists paid by the coal and oil industry and even some environmentalists will try to fight the bill.

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