Climate bill will pass House on Friday, lawmaker predicts

McClatchy NewspapersJune 24, 2009 

WASHINGTON — A Democrat who helped draft the sweeping climate bill that limits greenhouse gases and improves the nation's energy efficiency predicted Wednesday that the legislation would be approved by the House on Friday.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said the measure would lead to a "green revolution," reduce global warming pollution, reduce oil imports, create jobs in clean energy companies and protect consumers from higher prices and industries from the effects of competition from overseas.

"On Friday we are going to pass the most important energy and environment bill in history," Markey said at a rally to drum up support.

The rally, outside the Capitol building, drew Democratic leaders and environmental, labor and religious groups to press members of the House of Representatives to vote for the legislation.

Not everyone is happy with the proposed climate law, however.

Republicans complain that a key component of the bill — a mechanism to trade carbon emission permits and collect revenue to offset the higher cost of fossil fuels — was just another form of tax.

The Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights group with some 100,000 members, opposed the bill Wednesday, saying it was an "elitist view" that higher prices for fossil fuels would prompt conservation and that "the poor and working families we represent cannot bear that luxury."

Roy Innis, the group's chairman, also objected to provisions in the bill that would return money from the sale of permits to consumers. "Americans don't want 'energy welfare payments' from the government to help ease the sting of these government-driven cost increases."

The bill is designed to set up sweeping changes in the production and use of energy in the United States into the middle of the century. It would lead to increases in the price of fossil fuels, but also incentives for cleaner alternatives. Some of the money from sales of permits for each ton of emissions would be distributed to regulated utilities that would be obligated to hold down ratepayers' bills. Some revenue would go to industry.

Two recent reports, by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Congressional Budget Office, said the costs to consumers would be minimal. The EPA analysis said that in 2020 the average household would pay 7 percent less for household energy because efficiency measures would reduce demand. The CBO said consumers could expect to see costs rise by $175 a year and that poor households would save $40 a year.

Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the bill would provide a "clean energy future" for the next generation and boost the U.S. steel industry with jobs for new products such as wind turbines.

""Drill, baby, drill,' is Flintstones technology. This is about the future technology and it's technology that's going to be kept here in the United States of America," Doyle said.

Republicans, with few exceptions, oppose the bill.

Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, a member of the House Republican leadership, said it would bring "the largest tax increase in the country's history."

Cantor in a statement on Wednesday cited a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study that Republicans said shows the bill would cost $3,100 per household. The author of the study earlier said the GOP misinterpreted the study to derive that amount.

Another opponent of the legislation, the American Petroleum Institute, said the recent CBO study, which found the average household would pay $175 per year if the bill passed, was too rosy. It didn't include gasoline price increases that could cost $800 per family per year, API president Jack Gerard said in a statement.

A coalition of major environmental groups, including the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, urged members of Congress to pass the bill, strengthen its environmental protections and defeat amendments that opponents are expected to offer to weaken it on Friday before the final vote.

If it passes the House on Friday, the bill would still be far from becoming law. There are many unknowns ahead, including how the Senate would shape a version of the legislation, and whether it would pass.

ON THE WEB

Summary of key provisions of the American Energy and Security Act prepared by Democratic staff of the House Energy and Commerce Committee

Supporters of an auction of emissions permits

Summary of the House Republicans' energy plan

The Political Economy Research Institute report on the bill's impact on jobs and the economy

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McClatchy Newspapers 2009

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