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Waxman Markey hits the House floor

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
The House Dems managed to vote the Waxman Markey carbon cap and trade bill to the floor, setting it up for a vote in the near future.  It's breaking largely along party lines (as most legislation does), with Republicans arguing it will cost Americans thousands of dollars per year in higher energy costs, Democrats arguing the costs will be minimal (with support from recent EPA and Congressional Budget Office studies).  The EPA and CBO found it would only cost the average American household in the $100-175 range per year, while Republicans are claiming the cost will be in the thousands.

Once the debate began on the House floor, one Republican went off on a rant about how it's all just a hoax, and got applause from his fellow conservatives.  So it's nice to see that there's a good intellectual dialogue going on already.

Al Gore wrote a blog entry on the bill, saying "there is no back-up plan".  I think he's exactly right.  If we don't pass this bill, there's nothing in the wings.  We won't pass carbon legislation for years, and we'll go into the Copenhagen negotiations in December with nothing to add.  What's the point in agreeing to carbon emissions reductions when you can't get the related legislation passed?  China will have little motivation to reduce their emissions when we continue to fail to regulate ours.  To be blunt, I think if this bill doesn't pass, it will be a disaster.

A good gauge will be the margin by which it passes in the House (assuming it passes, which it should).  If the Democrats can hold most of their moderates and get a few Republicans on board, it bodes well for passage in the Senate.  If it only passes by a slim margin, the road through the Senate will be extremely difficult.  No doubt they'll hold off on bringing it to the Senate floor until the climate (no pun intended) is more favorable (i.e. higher gas prices, stronger economy, better approval for Obama).

Pelosi has said she wants a vote on the bill in the House before the 4th of July break.  You can see a list of undecided congressmen here.
post #2 of 20
I don't know much about policy, but why is this an all-or-nothing event? I mean if this doesn't pass, can't they just modify it and try again?
post #3 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by dawei View Post

I don't know much about policy, but why is this an all-or-nothing event? I mean if this doesn't pass, can't they just modify it and try again?

Try again:  Because the metric for congress is bills passed, not bills attempted.  If the votes aren't there once, it's dead since nobody will waste effort on a losing proposition a second time. 

all-or-nothing:  There are no other ways to mitigate carbon emissions that are even remotely acceptable politically.  There are other ways, just no other ways that any politician in their right mind would propose since they would involve personal sacrifice for the public, which would mean not getting re-elected. 
post #4 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by gcnp58 View Post

Try again:  Because the metric for congress is bills passed, not bills attempted.  If the votes aren't there once, it's dead since nobody will waste effort on a losing proposition a second time. 

all-or-nothing:  There are no other ways to mitigate carbon emissions that are even remotely acceptable politically.  There are other ways, just no other ways that any politician in their right mind would propose since they would involve personal sacrifice for the public, which would mean not getting re-elected. 
 

Well you're probably right, but it still doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense to me.

By the way, is this right?
Quote:
It includes a renewable electricity standard (almost identical to a renewable portfolio standard, but narrowly tailored to electrical energy) requiring each electricity provider who supplies over 4 million MWh to produce 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources (such as wind, solar, and geothermal) by 2020.

20% renewable by 2020? That seems incredibly aggressive, especially if they can only use renewables and no nuclear or co-gen. And what's the deal with only letting 5% of reductions come from efficiency? If utilities can increase their efficiency to what would be the equivalent emissions cut from a 20% shift to renewables, then what's the problem? 

I mean I know it's better than nothing, but do you guys really like this bill?


...sorry for the rant, I haven't had much coffee today.
post #5 of 20
Thread Starter 
Yeah they've been negotiating this bill for quite a while and making concessions to make as many people happy as possible.  If they can't get it to pass now, it's just not going to happen with this bill.

They can try again with a somewhat similar bill.  But they'll have to draft up a new version, it will probably have to have lower reductions target than Waxman Markey, which won't make liberal Democrats happy, and probably still won't bring many (or any) more conservatives aboard.

The thing is, it's not really about the details at this point.  There are a few congressmen who are worried about impacts to their home district (mostly moderates who live in areas heavily dependent upon coal), but the bill should pass the House without their support anyway (knock on wood).  The questions then are the margin by which it passes, how well the Democrats hold together in the Senate, and if they can pick off a few Republican supporters (i.e. moderates like Snowe and Collins).  But if the bill fails and you modify the bill a little bit and re-introduce it, you're going to get the same result, and no politician wants to waste his time on that.
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dawei View Post

20% renewable by 2020? That seems incredibly aggressive, especially if they can only use renewables and no nuclear or co-gen. And what's the deal with only letting 5% of reductions come from efficiency? If utilities can increase their efficiency to what would be the equivalent emissions cut from a 20% shift to renewables, then what's the problem? 

I mean I know it's better than nothing, but do you guys really like this bill?
 

That is pretty agressive, but utilities already have some degree of renewable energy, and 20% over a decade is certainly plausible.  If you count hydroelectric, PG&E already meets that standard.  I don't have a problem with it.

As for the bill as a whole, I think it's reasonable.  The 17% GHG emissions reduction target by 2020 is too weak, IMO, but I like the 83% by 2050.  Some concessions were made that I'm not thrilled with, but overall it's a solid bill.  Not terrific, but I know it's the best we're going to get anytime in the forseeable future.  There are a lot of aspects to like about it too, like support of renewables and energy efficiency and such.
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 
That was quick.  The good news it that it passed the House.  The bad news is that it only passed 219-212.  So it's going to be a tough road in the Senate, and I suspect the Dems will wait a while before bringing it to the floor.

There was a good speech on the House floor given by Rep. Doggett (D-TX).
Quote:

“Earlier today I voiced my strong objections to this bill.  I voted against the rule to permit this debate because of its rejection of some amendments that I thought would have improved this legislation.

“For three reasons, I’m voting for final passage.  First, I’ve been listening to the debate; not so much to those who support a bill that I’m not all that enthusiastic about, but listening to the flat earth society and the climate deniers, and some of the most inane arguments I have heard against refusing to act on this vital national security challenge.

“Second, I believe there is still some hope to make improvements once it gets out of the House – better to have a seat at the table to try to influence the change that is needed in this legislation.

“Third, I am convinced that unless we act today, the Senate will not act, and unless we act in this Congress, we will not get the international agreements we need to address this serious challenge.  I’m voting yes in the hope that we will have a better bill and we will have the international accord that we so desperately need to deal with this critical matter.”


Well said.
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
FiveThirtyEight has an article on the likelihood of passage through the Senate, and what it will take.
Quote:
Three current Republican Senators -- Snowe, Collins and Mel Martinez -- voted for cloture on the Liberman-Warner climate bill last year (so did four Republican senators who have since left the Senate). Six other surviving Republicans -- Graham, Gregg, McCain, Murkowski, Cornyn, DeMint -- did not vote on cloture. Cornyn and DeMint are staunch conservatives who were probably out of the office that day, but the other four are maybe gettable.

On the other hand, several Democrats voted against cloture, and several others declined to vote. Someone like Mary Landireu of Louisana is not very likely to vote for this bill, certainly, and there will have to be some sausage-rolling to get farm and coal state Democrats like Kent Conrad and Robert Byrd on board.

The point is this: I don't think there are 41 solid 'no's in the Senate -- not yet. There might be 37 or 38 or 39, but not 41. And as long as that's the case, there's some daylight for the White House. But it won't be easy, and if environmental advocates didn't like the version that came out of the House, they aren't liable to be any more pleased with whatever has an opportunity to make it though the Senate.

In short, in order to gain enough support to pass the Senate, more compromises will be made and the bill will be watered down further.  Which is certainly unfortunate, but it can always be improved in the future, as Joe Romm notes, the original Clean Air Act or Montreal Protocol were also too weak.  But it's crucial to get the framework in place.

FiveThirtyEight also has a cool map illustrating the CBO estimated energy costs due to Waxman Markey on each state.

post #9 of 20
Some <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/opinion/29krugman.html?partner=rss&emc=rss">thoughts</a> from Thomas Friedman..
Edited by captaint - 6/29/2009 at 03:25 pm GMT
post #10 of 20
No one ever claimed politicians were smart - if they were they would probably not be a politician! 
post #11 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by captaint View Post

Some <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/opinion/29krugman.html?partner=rss&emc=rss">thoughts></a> from Thomas Friedman..


Great article.  Friedman really echoes my thought process on Waxman Markey and the Republican reaction to it.
post #12 of 20
Oops!  That should say "Paul Krugman", not Thomas Friedman.  My apologies.
post #13 of 20
Temp charts/graphs that are rather demonstrative.

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/ 
post #14 of 20
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-stavins/national-climate-change-p_b_222441.html">Another look</a> at the proposal from Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program and editor of peer-reviewed journal Review of Environmental Economics and Policy (REEP).  Includes some good links.
post #15 of 20
Since we're sharing takes on Waxman-Markey, I just came across this article by James Hansen in Huff Post. I look forward to reading your responses to this.
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by green-bohemia View Post

Since we're sharing takes on Waxman-Markey, I just came across this article by James Hansen in Huff Post. I look forward to reading your responses to this.
 


James Hansen is a terrific climate scientist, but when it comes to policy, I think he's consistently wrong.  Joe Romm has a great response to Hansen's article in Climate progress titled
Quote:
Hansen mostly recycles myths in his mostly pointless attack on U.S. climate action

I think Romm is spot-on.  Policy is more in his arena (he's a former assistant secretary at the Dept of Energy), plus Hansen seems very confused about what''s actually in Waxman Markey (his article contains a lot of incorrect statements, as Romm points out).
post #17 of 20
 My problem with Rohm is his total intolerance for anything but his own view (my thoughts anyway). About an hour back I dumped the RSS link to his blog - again. I did it once before.

Also - very many of the comments to his blog are from the 'let's go live in the cave' bunch. They don't mind his view point since they don't bother to think anyway. I have zero interest in the=at group!

I don't know the science well enough and don't intend to read 1400 pages of double talk - I just don't like it when people get too strident. That's what politicians are for I guess.
post #18 of 20
 I guess what I was trying to say in my previous post is that Rohm is preaching to the quire. The ones already on his side.

To make progress on climate change legislation middle ground needs to be won. No question where green peace or the far right are going.

Edited by Russ - 7/11/2009 at 12:50 pm GMT
post #19 of 20
Did anybody notice this popped up in the news again?  I imagine the comments are the same, since these costs have been long ago roundly disputed.  Just wondering if anybody has anything additional to add, since now it's being said that the "true costs" of Cap & Trade were "suppressed" by the administration.
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
It's similar to when the claimed the MIT study concluded the bill would cost the average family $3,100 and the scientist said they were misrepresenting his study.  From what I understand, they're only looking at direct costs without looking at the offsetting savings from various programs and rebates.  Bucket had a pretty good response to this question here.
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