Monday, April 26, 2010

What a Toothless Climate Bill.

No wonder it has bipartisan support. From Mother Jones:

  • The bill would remove the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, and the states' authority to set tougher emissions standards than the federal government.

  • There will be no fee—or "gas tax"—on transportation fuels. Instead, oil companies would also be required to obtain pollution permits but will not trade them on the market like other polluters. How this would work is not yet clear.

  • Agriculture would be entirely exempt from the cap on carbon emissions.

  • Manufacturers would not be included under a cap on greenhouse gases until 2016.

  • The bill would provide government-backed loan guarantees for the construction of 12 new nuclear power plants.

  • It will contain at least $10 billion to develop technologies to capture and store emissions from coal-fired power plants.

  • There will be new financial incentives for natural gas.

  • The bill would place an upper and lower limit on the price of pollution permits, known as a hard price collar. Businesses like this idea because it ensures a stable price on carbon. Environmental advocates don't like the idea because if the ceiling is set too low, industry will have no financial incentive to move to cleaner forms of energy.

  • The energy bill passed by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year will be adopted in full. This measure has sparked concerns among environmentalists for its handouts to nuclear and fossil fuel interests.

  • Agriculture is exempt? "Manufacturers" are temporarily exempt? Oil companies are regulated in a separate market? That doesn't leave much. What about when agricultural industries buy from oil companies? This seems to leave loads of room for loopholes.

    I suppose there's a tough line between what is politically feasible for progress and what is ideal. I would think that a flat carbon tax or 100% auctioned carbon permits (if a cap-and-trade system must be used – but it seems that this is even mere terminology to appease free-market mindset at times) would be the least bureaucratic way to go about it, and also the most productive. Make people internalize the damage they do to the planet in the price. It's also the one that would carve deepest into the energy industry's profits. Thus, both parties support a bill that does next to nothing.

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