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Climate And Energy Effort Appears Irresponsibly Weak, Useless

While opinions differ on financial regulatory reform, I think you can pretty safely condemn the climate and energy bill potentially taking shape in the Senate. The climate piece, with its forsaking an industry-wide cap on carbon for a phased-in, industry-by-industry approach, is obviously a weakened version of an already weakened House bill. But the energy aspect is actually even worse, as David Roberts points out:

For a moment, though, let’s peel our eyes from the shiny carbon-pricing bauble. Carbon pricing is only one aspect of climate policy, and not necessarily the most important. Recall that carbon pricing was only about a third of the American Clean Energy and Security Act that passed the House. Substantial parts of that bill were devoted to directly supporting clean energy and boosting energy efficiency. In many ways they were the best parts of the bill […]

So it’s worth asking what “complementary policies” will be in the KGL (Kerry-Graham-Lieberman) bill. Remarkably little has been said on that subject. The default assumption, as far as I can tell, is that the complement will be the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s Energy & Natural Resources Committee passed last year. The senators who have made reference to an “energy-only” bill, which they argue would be easier to pass than a comprehensive bill, are generally referring to ACELA.

So, what’s with ACELA? Does it stand up to the complementary policies in ACES?

No. It’s important to state this bluntly: ACELA sucks. As a standalone bill, it does virtually nothing for renewables, boosts efficiency a middling amount, and dumps a bonanza of subsidies on offshore drilling, nuclear power, tar sands, oil shale, and natural gas. It also weakens the Renewable Fuel Standard. It’s a minor deviation from the awful energy status quo and would be a depressing end indeed to the year-long Obama-era effort to finally address America’s energy problems.

ACELA actually increases the federal deficit, and expert studies show it would require less clean energy that we should expect if we did absolutely nothing. And the trawling for industry backing for the bill will only weaken it more, if that’s possible.

Some enviro groups held a call last night with former Vice President Al Gore, and he was talking about the importance of pricing carbon and spurring investment in clean energy and moving to a renewable economy, in the context of what the Senate’s doing, and I really thought he was talking a separate language. There does not seem to be a process better for the planet and our energy future than to push small-bore jobs bills around energy efficiency and renewables while letting the EPA regulate carbon. The Kerry-Graham-Lieberman process just stinks.

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David Dayen

David Dayen