Dems, Reps divided on climate pseudo-solutions

Key Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee endorsed a climate bill and Republicans readied more than 400 amendments to the measure May 19. Democrats are supporting a measure that would instate a carbon-trading system, which in theory would spur development of less-polluting energy sources such as wind and solar by regulating emissions caused by energy sources such as oil and coal.

Bloomberg provides details:

The measure would give some US industries a share of free pollution permits under a cap-and-trade plan to cut greenhouse gases. In all, 85 percent of pollution permits would be given away in the early years of the plan’s phase-in.

The electricity sector would be the biggest recipient, getting 35 percent of the permits for free, covering 90 percent of their current carbon dioxide output.

Oil companies would get 2 percent of the free permits, also known as allowances or credits. Refineries and their fuels are responsible for about one-third of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. The industry wants more free permits to meet cap-and- trade emission targets.

Friends of the Earth protests this approach in a report cutely dubbed “Subprime Carbon?“:

As policymakers debate Wall Street reform, there is little attention being paid to whether new regulations will be adequate to govern carbon trading and the carbon derivatives markets, which many experts believe could become larger than credit derivatives markets.

Most proposed climate bills rely on cap-and-trade systems to achieve greenhouse gas reductions, and the Obama administration also prefers this approach. But these bills do not seek to regulate carbon trading as a massive new derivatives market, which is, in fact, what it is… [E]xisting financial regulations, as well as those in major cap-and-trade bills, are inadequate to govern carbon trading, creating a potentially huge regulatory gap… [L]essons from the current financial crisis apply to carbon markets. In particular, it raises concerns about “subprime carbon,” risky carbon credits based on uncompleted offset projects (projects designed to sequester or reduce greenhouse gases).

Subprime carbon credits may ultimately fail to reduce greenhouse gases and, like subprime mortgages, could collapse in value, yet they are already being securitized and resold in secondary markets.

The Republicans reject carbon trading, in favor of subsidies for nuclear power. Reports the New York Times:

[D]ebate today will focus first on a section of the legislation establishing a nationwide renewable electricity standard (RES) requiring utilities to supply escalating amounts of power from sources such as wind, solar and biomass.

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said he planned to offer an amendment that would open the RES to nuclear power and carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants. “We think it’s unfair that basically they’re subsidizing wind and solar, and the government is deciding which sources of energy would be used to produce electricity,” he said.

See our last post on the climate crisis.

Please leave a tip or answer the Exit Poll.

  1. Warming impacts already felt: White House report
    From AP, June 17:

    WASHINGTON – Harmful effects from global warming are already here and worsening, the first climate report from Barack Obama’s presidency warns.

    The language on climate change is the strongest ever to come out of the White House.

    Global warming has already caused more heavy downpours, the rise of temperatures and sea levels, rapidly retreating glaciers and changes in river flows, according to the document released Tuesday by the White House science adviser and other top officials.

    “There are in some cases already serious consequences,” said report co-author Anthony Janetos of the University of Maryland. “This is not a theoretical thing that will happen 50 years from now. Things are happening now.”

    The White House document – a climate status report required periodically by Congress – contains no new research. But it paints a fuller, more cohesive and darker picture of global warming in the U.S. than studies during the George W. Bush years.

    One administration official, Jane Lubchenco, called the new report a game-changer that would inform policy but not dictate a solution.

    The “major disruptions” already taking place will only increase as warming continues, the authors wrote. They project the average U.S. temperature could rise by as much as 11 degrees by the end of the century.

    “Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems,” the study said in one of its key findings, adding that the survival of some species could be affected.

    For example, in the last few decades, winters in parts of the Midwest have warmed by several degrees, and the time without frost has grown by a week, the report said.

    Shorter winters have some benefits, such as longer growing seasons, but those are changes that require adjustments just the same, the authors note.

    Water – too much or too little – is a dominant theme through much of the report, which says that resource will continue to be a major problem in every region of the country. The U.S. Southwest is expected to get drier and hotter, for instance.

    White House science adviser John Holdren said the global warming report “tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later.”

  2. Aw, zip it with that crap already, will ya?
    John Kerry and Lindsey Graham in an Oct. 10 New York Times op-ed, “Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation)”:

    Second, while we invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, we must also take advantage of nuclear power, our single largest contributor of emissions-free power. Nuclear power needs to be a core component of electricity generation if we are to meet our emission reduction targets. We need to jettison cumbersome regulations that have stalled the construction of nuclear plants in favor of a streamlined permit system that maintains vigorous safeguards while allowing utilities to secure financing for more plants. We must also do more to encourage serious investment in research and development to find solutions to our nuclear waste problem.