- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The House climate bill lawmakers begin debating Tuesday would increase fuel-efficiency standards, establish mandates for renewable electricity, spur “clean coal” technology and open a legal path for victims of climate change — in addition to enacting a carbon-trading proposal, which is expected to be the most contentious issue of all.

The push and pull between the so-called cap-and-trade provision and additional fuel and energy mandates is emblematic of the larger debate in which lawmakers and interest groups have been engaged over how to curb global warming

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman of California and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts have set a quick schedule for passing the package, with much of the key action to come over the next four weeks.

Much of the public debate has centered on the bill’s cap-and-trade plan, which could set a limit on carbon emissions and require companies to purchase permits to emit, but business groups and environmentalists also have been dissecting the bill’s other measures.

“The choice the cap-and-trade program gives the renewable energy standard takes away, and the same is true for the low carbon fuels,” said Scott Segal, an energy attorney for Bracewell and Giuliani.

“It’s more like a belts-and-anchors approach,” Mr. Segal said, noting that the free-market approach of a carbon-trading system easily could be curbed by the “command and control” provisions in the bill, which dictate energy production and use.

On the other side of the spectrum, environmental groups have embraced many of the bill’s provisions but say the incentives for developing technology to capture emissions from coal plants would create an artificial market built for the clean-coal industry.

“If President Obama were to stand up today and say ‘I will regulate global warming,’ he changes the game,” said Phil Radford, the new executive director for Greenpeace.

The bill also would:

• Require that utilities purchase 25 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power.

• Mandate that the Environmental Protection Agency set new limits for carbon in motor fuels — a measure that would support the biofuel and ethanol industries.

• Force the Obama administration to study government barriers to “commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage” — or clean-coal technology — and mandate that the EPA set guidelines for carbon-capture sites, where coal-plant emissions would be injected deep into the ground.

• Give anyone who can prove he or she was harmed, or is likely to be harmed, by global warming the standing to sue the government.

The plan also includes a lengthy list of “technical corrections” to previous energy bills, which vary from major policy changes for federal energy-efficient lighting standards to grammatical and spelling corrections in the U.S. law.

The debate surrounding other provisions in the broad-sweeping Waxman-Markey bill is reflective of the larger debate over how to curb global warming, which includes policy carrots and sticks.

Just a few months after lawmakers approved tens of billions of dollars in federal aid for renewable energy development — a policy carrot designed to curb the national dependence on fossil fuels — authors of the House climate bill were lauding an EPA decision that could lead to potentially drastic federal regulations.

The EPA released a scientific finding Friday declaring carbon dioxide a pollutant, the first step in a process that would lead to regulating global warming using the Clean Air Act.

“It is now no longer a choice between doing a bill or doing nothing, it is now a choice between regulation and legislation,” Mr. Markey said Friday.

Democratic leaders in Congress and the White House have said they prefer to curb greenhouse gasses through legislation, and the Waxman-Markey bill is the first comprehensive plan of the new Congress to include their preferred strategy of capping carbon emissions and selling permits to emitters.

Mr. Markey’s subcommittee will hear testimony on the bill this week, including appearances by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Wednesday. The following week the subcommittee plans to amend the bill before passing it on to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee run by Mr. Waxman.

Mr. Waxman has promised to move the bill from his committee by Memorial Day.

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