Saturday, July 11, 2009

Waxman-Markey bill undermined Obama on climate change

This is a good piece by Jim Hansen that talks about the limitations faced by Obama as Congress ties his hands, how that impacted the G8 talks this week, what is needed to truly make a dent in global warming and climate change and how to achieve those goals - a "fee & dividend system". The Waxman-Markey bill passed the House of Representatives in late June - 219 to 212.

G-8 Failure Reflects US Failure on Climate Change - Jin Hansen

With a workable climate bill in his pocket, President Obama might have been able to begin building that global consensus in Italy. Instead, it looks as if the delegates from other nations may have done what 219 U.S. House members who voted up Waxman-Markey last month did not: critically read the 1,400-page American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 and deduce that it's no more fit to rescue our climate than a V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon.

For all its "green" aura, Waxman-Markey locks in fossil fuel business-as-usual and garlands it with a Ponzi-like "cap-and-trade" scheme. Here are a few of the bill's egregious flaws:

  • It guts the Clean Air Act, removing EPA's ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.
  • It sets meager targets -- 2020 emissions are to be a paltry 13% less than this year's level -- and sabotages even these by permitting fictitious "offsets," by which other nations are paid to preserve forests - while logging and food production will simply move elsewhere to meet market demand.
  • Its cap-and-trade system, reports former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Robert Shapiro, "has no provisions to prevent insider trading by utilities and energy companies or a financial meltdown from speculators trading frantically in the permits and their derivatives."
  • It fails to set predictable prices for carbon, without which, Shapiro notes, "businesses and households won't be able to calculate whether developing and using less carbon-intensive energy and technologies makes economic sense," thus ensuring that millions of carbon-critical decisions fall short....
The fact is that the climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course. Their bill is an astoundingly inefficient way to get a tiny reduction of emissions. It's less than worthless, because it will delay by at least a decade starting on a path that is fundamentally sound from the standpoints of both economics and climate preservation.
Hansen goes on to talk about an alternative to "cap and trade" which he calls "fee and dividend". He's critical of some leaders of larger environmental organizations who are willing to support anything in the name of doing something - even if that "something" will not be very effective. He calls for us to get off of coal and dirty petroleum within 10 years while working on a transition away from oil altogether in an effort to prevent catastrophic, irreversible climate change.

Hansen was one of the fearless voices who spoke up during the Dubya era.
Jim Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, but he writes on this policy-related topic as a private citizen.

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites directory Add to Bloglines Who links to me?