The House Has Got Climate on Its Mind
by Bill Chameides | October 10th, 2008
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)
Amid all the furor and worry over the economy, did anyone notice the passage of a major milestone in addressing climate change? This week, U.S. Representatives John Dingell and Rick Boucher released a “discussion draft” of a bill to place a cap on greenhouse pollution in the United States.
In the past five years the Senate has considered three separate comprehensive bills on climate change. The most recent one was the Warner-Lieberman bill which made it to the Senate floor but never got to a vote.
Incredibly, a comprehensive bill on climate change has never reached the House floor. Shortly after the 2006 elections, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that a climate bill would reach the House floor by July 4th of 2007. As July 4th approached, the date was delayed until the fall, and then pushed back to sometime in 2008.
So the release of a discussion draft of comprehensive climate legislation by Dingell (D- Mich.) and Boucher (D-Va.) is worthy of some note.
The bill would establish a cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse emissions from sources that collectively comprise a little less than 90 percent of our total emissions today. As with other cap-and-trade bills, the cap would decline over time: Six percent below current emissions by 2020, 40 percent by 2040, and 80 percent by 2050. Some have criticized the bill for the pace of the emission reductions in the early years, opining that stricter caps are needed by 2020.
Perhaps because Dingell represents the 15th District of Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, the bill does not appear to place any limits on the automotive sector. Instead, emissions from transportation are addressed exclusively by placing caps on the oil industry (i.e., petroleum producers and refiners). And perhaps because Boucher represents the 9th District of Virginia, a coal-mining area, the bill does not place any limits on coal production. Emissions from the power sector are instead addressed by placing caps on power plants. The bill does, on the other hand, provide incentives for carbon capture and sequestration which would allow power plants to use coal without adding to the burden of greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere.
Does this draft bill have any chance of becoming legislation? Well, the long-term prognosis is not bad. Dingell and Boucher are no slouches when it comes to influence in the House. Dingell is the longest serving member of the House. As chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and despite his advanced age of 82, he is arguably one of the most powerful members of the House. Boucher sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and is chair of the Subcommittee Energy and Air Quality. If there is ever to be a climate bill from the House, that bill will have to go through them.
The short-term prognosis on the other hand is DOA. The draft will not be considered until after the election – effectively that means sometime next year after the new Congress is sworn in. Like fans of the Chicago Cubs, you’ll have to wait ‘til next year.filed under: climate change, faculty, politics