Senate Democrats today released the details of an energy and climate bill that would cut CO2 emissions 20% by 2020.
Senators John Kerry (D-Mass) and Barbara Boxer (D-Cali) today introduced the Kerry-Boxer legislation which they said will create clean energy jobs, reduce pollution, and protect American security by enhancing domestic energy production and combating global climate change.
"This is a security bill that puts Americans back in charge of our energy future and makes it clear that we will combat global climate change with American ingenuity. It is our country’s defense against the harms of pollution and the security risks of global climate change,” said Senator Kerry.
"We must seize this opportunity, or others will move ahead, said Senator Boxer. “This is our time. Global warming is our challenge. Economic recovery is our challenge. American leadership is our challenge. Let's step up right now. Let's not quit until we have fulfilled our responsibility to our children and our grandchildren."
The Clean Jobs and American Power Act calls to reduce point-source (i.e smokestack) emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. While those numbers are likely to be chipped away at, the short-term goal is still a bit more ambitious than the House's 17 percent reduction target.
One of the most contentious sections of the House bill — and what likely drove environmental groups like Greenpeace to oppose it — was the liberal distribution of free pollution credits. Not only could those free credits eventually be worth billions of dollars some day, critics say they don't compel polluters to act any time soon. The Senate bill unveiled today does not spell out who would get free credits, an issue that will again be the focal-point of deliberation — and of lobbyists' attention.
The battle shaping up in Congress is already playing out elsewhere as three of the nation's largest utilities announced they would be leaving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the trade association's extreme opposition to climate legislation.
The Chamber has staked-out a position that challenges the validity of climate change science and is spending as much as $100 million dollars in lobbying efforts to defeat it.
As expected, reaction to bill is mixed
Left-leaning Senators applauded the bill's aggressive stance on carbon cuts. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee said the more aggressive 2020 target is a good sign.
"At the end of the day, what happens early on is what's most important, not what your goals are 50 years from now," Sanders said. "That's a significant step forward."
Republican Senators didn't appear to be terribly supportive of the 801-page draft that circulated around Capitol Hill Tuesday. When asked by Reuters if he could support the Democrats' bill Senator John McCain said: "Of course not. Never, never, never."
Early reaction from environmental groups was positive. "This bill is an important step forward to the clean energy economy that works for everyone," said the Sierra Club in a statement. "We are pleased that the Senate bill sets a strong short term target for carbon pollution reductions and retains EPA's authority to regulate global warming emissions."
"A stronger short-term target makes scientific sense," said Melanie Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists. More of the carbon dioxide we're emitting today is staying in the atmosphere because the ocean is absorbing less carbon from the air, added Fitzpatrick. "That means early cuts in emissions are even more critical to keep temperatures down and prevent the worst consequences of climate change."
Oil industry representatives showed the same reticence for the Senate draft bill as they did for Waxman-Markey. “Unfortunately, the Kerry-Boxer legislation is beginning to look a lot like the House’s Waxman-Markey bill and a loser for American consumers," said American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard. "If the Kerry-Boxer approach mimics the House bill, as early indications suggest, it will undermine our energy security by making American consumers more reliant on foreign sources of refined products, kill jobs and increase fuel costs."
The Boxer-Kerry bill will be considered in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which Mrs. Boxer heads. While Boxer has promised to begin hearings on October 20, other committees, including the busy Senator Max Baucus' Senate Finance Committee, may not move as quickly.