Sen. Murkowski opened a briefing on Post-Combustion Carbon Capture at the Senate last week by asserting technology is the key to addressing our energy needs. The Senator said that advancing technology will allow the U.S. to move towards a low-carbon future. Sen. Murkowski is correct.
And cap and trade will guide us to just that: advancing technological innovation. As Sen. Murkowski put it, our current energy technology has an "environmental price," and a clear signal regarding the price of carbon is imperative to spur R&D in technologies with a lower environmental price. Cap and trade allows the government to set the policy objective – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and businesses to decide how to best achieve the objective in the most cost-effective manner. It will give industry experts exactly what they are seeking: a clear signal that financial incentives exist for low-greenhouse gas technological innovation, whether its carbon capture and sequestration discussed at the briefing, or nuclear, wind, tidal, or other technologies.
Read more about technology policies and their relationship to cap and trade here.
The Kerry-Graham Op-Ed: Toward an All-of-the-Above Energy Policy for Meeting Our Economic, Security & Climate Objectives
Climate action advocates got a jolt Sunday morning from an op-ed written by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in The New York Times. The op-ed sketched out an energy-climate agreement that would combine aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions with expanded nuclear power, more oil and gas drilling off our coasts, border taxes to protect energy-intensive, trade-exposed manufacturers from imports produced without strong environmental protections, and a price collar on GHG allowances (establishing a floor and ceiling for the cost of emission allowances). I can’t think of anybody who won’t hate at least one part of this formula – certainly we at the Pew Center would offer some important tweaks. But Kerry and Graham have posed a tough question: Are we truly ready to hammer out an all-of-the-above energy policy that meets our economic, security and climate objectives?
Before you answer, keep this in mind: there is no partisan option for passing a climate and energy bill in the Senate. In the House, where 256 out of 435 Representatives are Democrats, even when 44 voted against the Waxman-Markey bill (with 8 Republicans voting for it), it passed. In the Senate, we need 60 votes to pass a bill, there are exactly 60 Democrats, and everybody expects at least a handful of them to vote against any serious climate bill, meaning that at least that number of Republicans will have to vote for a bill in order to pass it. The good news is that the Senate has a history of real Republican leadership on the climate issue. Nine current Republican Senators have written, cosponsored, voted for, or spoken in favor of mandatory GHG reductions – for the most part through cap-and-trade, some of them ahead of their time. We know of at least five more who would engage in the crafting of a climate bill if left to their own devices. The bad news is that the mood in the Senate this year has been bitterly and famously partisan.
The Kerry-Graham op-ed is the strongest ray of bipartisan hope we’ve seen on the climate issue this year. It took real guts on the part of both Senators, and it is potentially game changing. No one is going to love all the particulars – but then no one is going to love all the particulars of any climate-energy bill that has a chance of enactment in this Congress.
Manik Roy is Vice President, Federal Government Outreach
In the House, the committee chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has jurisdiction over most matters touched on by the climate/energy bill. In the Senate, jurisdiction over the bill is divided between six major committees. This makes things complicated, since Congress does most of its work in its committees.
The House committee’s membership made it an excellent crucible for producing a balanced comprehensive climate and energy bill. Even with most committee Republicans not involved in the drafting, there was a large enough majority of Democrats (36 out of 59) to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act on Democratic votes alone. Moreover, committee Democrats were roughly divided between those eager to pass a bill and those more cautious, out of consideration for the bill’s possible impacts on the manufacturing or energy sectors in their districts. This meant Rep. Waxman had to balance the bill’s economic and environmental objectives just to get it out of committee.
This is not as true with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), the committee largely in charge of writing the GHG cap-and-trade provisions of the bill. The committee is not quite as regionally diverse as the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This morning we heard that EPW Chairman Boxer plans to start holding hearings on the Kerry-Boxer bill around mid-November, presumably moving shortly thereafter to a “mark up” (the arcane term for when a committee formally amends and decides whether to pass a bill). EPW passed a cap-and-trade bill in 2007 and is expected to do so again this year. Even after it does so, however, it will take a few more twists and turns for the bill to win the support of 60 Senators.
One option for doing this would be to have all six relevant committees tackle the aspects of the climate issue within their jurisdiction. Eighty-one of the Senate’s 100 members sit on at least one of these six committees. A robust committee process could therefore engage a much larger group of Senators than the 19 EPW members. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) did in fact earlier this year pass a major bipartisan energy bill with provisions corresponding with many of the energy measures of the House bill. The ENR Committee is going to continue exploring the climate issue next Wednesday with a hearing on energy and economic effects of climate change legislation. Aside from ENR’s bill, however, it is not clear at this point whether all relevant Senate committees will be sitting formally to address the climate aspects of the bill.
Another option would be for key Senators, those especially focused on the bill’s implications for manufacturing, agriculture and energy supply, to rise up outside the committee process and engage in the specifics of the bill. In fact, several ad hoc groups of moderate Democrats have crafted statements on the factors that would need to be addressed in a climate bill, the use of trade measures, the amount of allowance value needed to prevent carbon leakage, and the treatment of coal, setting a good precedent for their engagement.
Regardless of process by which the Senate at large is engaged, observers expect Senate Majority Leader Reid ultimately to be the one to forge the various inputs into a 60-vote bill – no doubt with major input from the President. I will write more on this in a later post.
Manik Roy is Vice President, Federal Government Outreach
While Congress continues to debate health care, the business community this week continued to lead on climate change. On Tuesday, we joined 6 other NGOs and 22 companies to launch a new full-page ad supporting comprehensive clean energy and climate change legislation. Fourteen members of our Business Environmental Leadership Council (BELC) signed on to the ad, which ran in The Washington Post, The NY Times and USA Today. For several of these companies, this was the first time they have stood up so publicly to support capping carbon. Other ads from similar coalitions are running in papers all across the country.
I also want to give props to Honeywell for joining the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). Honeywell is a $28 billion manufacturer of all types of goods from aerospace to home heating and cooling. By joining USCAP, they further demonstrate the diversity of industries that are committed to tackling climate change through the Blueprint for Legislative Action.
Earlier this week, the Midwestern Governors Association (MGA) convened key regional stakeholders and leaders from around the world for its Jobs and Energy Forum and announced a hopeful, forward-looking economic and environmental vision. The setting could not have been better suited to highlight the urgency with which these new initiatives are needed by both the Midwest and the nation as a whole. Detroit has been hit as hard as anywhere by the economic slump; according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the greater Detroit metropolitan area hit 17 percent in August, and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, in her remarks, noted that Michigan has lost close to a million jobs in a little less than a decade. Against this backdrop, many of the participants discussed the need for a new energy paradigm that addresses our economic, security, and environmental concerns. Even as the U.S. Senate prepares to tackle energy and climate legislation this fall, the Midwest made clear this week that it intends to move forward regardless of what happens in D.C.