U.S. congressional action on climate change

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Summary
Current Status: Following the Democratic takeover of both the House and Senate in the 110th Congress, the issue of climate change became a hot topic in the U.S. Congress. While numerous bills aimed at reducing earth-warming emissions were introduced and considered, the only legislation progressing in the Senate is the America's Climate Security Act, introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman and John Warner on October 18, 2007.

Like several of the other bills introduced in 2007, the Lieberman-Warner bill would install a cap on carbon emissions. Specifically, the legislation requires a 70 percent reduction of emissions (based on 2005 levels) by 2050. The act also provides billions of dollars in transition assistance to families, and additional funding for low-carbon technology investments for electric utility, transportation, and manufacturing companies.

On November 1, the bill was reported to the full Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where it is awaiting consideration.

Main article: America's Climate Security Act of 2007


Contents

Action in the 110th Congress

Senate

During the 110th Congress, the Senate considered many bills relating to climate change. In June 2007, the Senate passed the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, a version of which also passed the House, and which now awaits a conference committee. The Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act, Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act, and Global Warming Reduction Act have all been introduced, but no subsequent action has been taken. Details on both the content of these bills and support and opposition regarding them can be found below.

Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act (CSIA) of 2007 (S.280)

Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act (CSIA) of 2007 (S.280) on January 12, 2007. It was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.[1]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="S.280" />

It is the Senate version of the House's Climate Stewardship Act (H.R.620) (see below). The bill would establish an emissions "cap and trade" system to go into effect in 2012, requiring a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions of 15 percent by 2020 and 65 percent by 2050. Its mandates would cover electric power production and petroleum for the industrial, commercial, and transportation sectors. The measure would also set up the Climate Change Credit Corporation to reduce the resulting costs to consumers; provide R&D funding for advanced coal, renewable electricity, energy efficiency, advanced technology vehicles, transportation fuels, carbon sequestration and storage, and nuclear reactor technologies; and require the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to make periodic evaluations to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[2]

Support, opposition and critiques

Environmental Defense, a non-profit group committed to "developing constructive alternatives" to solve the most serious environmental problems, commended the bill, citing it as "aggressive in the short term and responsible over the long term." Stricter than the previous version introduced during the 109th Congress, the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007 would establish emission reduction requirements of 2004 levels by 2012, 1990 levels by 2020, and sixty percent below 1990 by 2050. Along with the cap would be a "market to trade emissions allowances, allowing the needed reductions to be achieved in the most efficient way possible." Environmental Defense praised the measure for putting a cap on pollution and allowing the free market to find the best solutions to fixing climate change, modeled after the hugely successful acid rain program established under President George H.W. Bush. The bill would also provide "transitional support for low carbon alternative fuels, including nuclear power." Environmental Defense also supported these provisions for research into nuclear power as an alternative fuel source, a rather unusual position for an environmental group, stating that despite there being "some very serious issues to work out with nuclear power," the "challenge of global warming is so urgent we can’t afford to take anything off the table." The organization was also reassured by the fact that funding would not go directly to new nuclear power plant construction, but would only fund research for innovations in nuclear power, such as in areas like waste disposal and security.[3]

Greenpeace was considerably less supportive of the bill. The organization, while acknowledging that the bill indicated that the "center of gravity in Congress is shifting toward significant long-term reductions in global warming pollution," argued that it remained flawed. Their criticisms included[4]:

  • The target emissions reductions in the bill fall considerably short of what scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.
  • The bill includes subsidies for nuclear energy, which is inherently dangerous and provides no "real solution" to global warming. In addition, subsidies to nuclear companies in the form of loan-guarantees, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), have a good chance (over 50 percent) of not being repaid.[5]

Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 (S.309)

On January 15, 2007, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced the Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act of 2007 (S.309). It was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.[6]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="S.309" />

The measure was intended to increase performance standards for electricity generation and motor vehicles with the option of an emissions "cap and trade" system. The emissions cap would begin in 2010 with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. The legislation would also provide funding for R&D on geologic sequestration, among other projects; set emissions standards for new vehicles and a renewable fuels requirement for gasoline beginning in 2016; establish energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards beginning in 2008 and low-carbon electric generation standards beginning in 2016 for electric utilities; and require periodic evaluations by the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[7]

Support, opposition and critiques

Environmental Defense called the bill one that "could jump start the needed emissions cuts" in the U.S., and commented that it would "cap and reduce tons of heat-trapping gases, and would do so at the levels and within the time frames demanded by the science." It added, however, that like all bills, it has its pluses and minuses.[8]

The measure was supported by a variety of other environmental groups, including Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, the National Audubon Society and the Union of Concerned Scientists.[9]

The Sierra Club emphasized that reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 would greatly help stabilize global temperatures and contain carbon dioxide atmospheric concentrations.[10]

Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act of 2007 (S.317)

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) introduced the Electric Utility Cap and Trade Act of 2007 (S.317) on January 17, 2007 to "to amend the Clean Air Act to establish a program to regulate the emission of greenhouse gases from electric utilities." It was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.[11]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="S.317" />

The legislation would set an emissions "cap and trade" system for electric utilities only. The cap would begin in 2011 and require a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities of 8 percent by 2020 and 41 percent by 2050. The bill would also establish a Climate Science Advisory Board to inform the administration and Congress of the state of climate science, and make recommendations to achieve climate stabilization; provide R&D funding for low- and zero-emitting carbon technologies, clean coal technologies, and energy efficient technologies relevant to the utilities industry; and require periodic evaluations by the Environmental Protection Agency to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[12]

Support, opposition and critiques

Global Warming Reduction Act of 2007 (S.485)

The Global Warming Reduction Act of 2007 (S.485) was introduced on February 1, 2007 by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) to "to amend the Clean Air Act to establish an economy-wide global warming pollution emission cap-and-trade program to assist the economy in transitioning to new clean energy technologies, to protect employees and affected communities, to protect companies and consumers from significant increases in energy costs, and for other purposes." The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance and also gained Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) as a co-sponsor.[13]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="S.485" />

The legislation sets up an emissions "cap and trade" system and raises performance standards. It also requires the establishment by 2014 of passenger vehicle standards no less stringent than California's; gives consumer tax credits for advanced vehicle technologies like fuel cells and plug-in hybrids; mandates the use of 60 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2030; requires the installation of E-85 pumps at certain gas stations; and requires periodic evaluations by the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[14]

Support, opposition and critiques

CLEAN Energy Act of 2007

In June 2007, the Senate debated a comprehensive energy bill, a combination of the CLEAN Energy Act (H.R.6) as passed in the House and the Senate's own energy bill, S.1419. The Senate bill was eventually considered under the name "CLEAN Energy Act of 2007" just as in the House. The measure, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), would be intended to "move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers from price gouging, to increase the energy efficiency of products, buildings and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government."[15] The Senate passed the legislation on June 21, 2007, with the bill then pending consideration by a conference committee since the Senate passed an amended version of the House-passed measure.

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.6" />

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="senate" rollcall="226" />

Main article: CLEAN Energy Act of 2007

Support, opposition and critiques

As the bill was being debated in the Senate, the Center for American Progress (CAP) called the bill “a good start” to solving the nation’s climate crisis, noting that it included valuable provisions on biofuels, energy efficiency, “green” federal buildings, research on carbon capture and storage, and development of a “smart grid.” The organization stressed that several provisions which would be introduced as amendments were important to strengthening the bill. These included:

  • A proposal by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) to mandate that fifteen percent of electricity provided by 2020 be renewable energy. CAP argued that twenty four states already had renewable electricity standards that required up to twenty-five percent of their electricity to come from solar, wind, geothermal, and other clean alternative energy technologies. They argued the federal requirement would have a negligible impact on electricity prices, and would significantly lower natural gas bills for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers.
  • An amendment to close loopholes in fuel economy standards, and oppose efforts to delay or weaken requirements.
  • An amendment to support a Renewable Fuels Standard of 25 percent by 2025, which would further reduce consumption of oil and global warming pollution.
  • An amendment, offered by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), to develop an Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Workforce Training program. These newly trained workers could enlist in the growth industries of wind and solar power, and “could include veterans, those displaced due to energy industry changes, and others looking for a ticket to the middle class.”[16]

Ultimately, the final bill reflected some, but not all, of CAP’s goals. The Bingaman amendment was defeated by a Republican-led filibuster. Fuel-economy requirements for new light-duty vehicles were raised to 35 miles/gallon by 2020, and an existing loophole that had made standards for SUVs and trucks less stringent than cars was eliminated. Both the renewable fuels standard, which required that the use of bio-fuels rise to 36 billion gallons by 2022, and the Clinton-Sanders amendment regarding a workforce training program, were approved as part of the final bill.[17]

The Sierra Club also had mixed views on the bill, and ultimately supported it with reservations. Noting that fuel economy standards had remained relatively constant for decades, Dan Becker, Sierra's Director of the Global Warming Program, was pleased that the bill called for increases to it. He held out hope, however, that the House could help strengthen the requirement in conference, stating "For the first time in three decades, a majority of Senators are poised to tell automakers: enough delay, enough gas guzzlers, enough pollution and enough failure. Now we look to the House to strengthen this compromise to guarantee that it accomplishes enough to be meaningful."

Becker had hoped that the bill would include the renewable electricity standard proposed by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). After it was filibustered, he stated "It is extremely disappointing that this bill will not include a Renewable Electricity Standard--a provision that enjoys the support of a super-majority in the Senate, and which 23 states have already adopted. We look forward to working with the leadership in the Senate to bring this issue up for a vote as soon as possible."[18]

In addition, the bill fell short of the Sierra Club's call for an emissions reduction of 80 percent by 2050, which they argued was a necessary and achievable reduction.[19]

Potential legislation

Bingaman bill

In January 2007, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) began drafting a bill that would establish an emissions intensity "cap and trade" system starting in 2010 for petroleum refineries, coal mines, natural gas processors, electricity generators, and carbon-intensive manufacturing. Requirements for greenhouse gas emission reduction would start at 2.6 percent per year between 2012 and 2021 and rise to 3 percent per year after 2022. The provisions would include a safety valve, or price cap, of $7 on the cost of carbon emissions. The bill would also provide R&D funding for zero or low-carbon energy technologies (e.g., high efficiency consumer products), advanced coal technologies, cellulosic biomass, and advanced technology vehicles.[20]

On July 11, 2007, Bingaman unveiled a draft of his energy and environment bill. The bill, which had yet to be officially introduced, already had garnered significant support from noteworthy members, including Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is cosponsoring the bill with Bingaman. Several key lobbying organizations also endorsed the draft legislation, including American Electric Power, Exelon Corp., Duke Energy Corp., the AFL-CIO, the United Mine Workers of America, the United Auto Workers, and a variety of hunting, fishing and other wildlife conservation groups. However, many environmental groups opposed the measure "because it would be less stringent than some of the other climate-change proposals introduced in this Congress."

New details on the potential legislation revealed that it would establish a "cap and trade" for greenhouse gas emissions with a cap on how much the emissions allowances would cost. The controversial “technology accelerator payment” would give companies the option of buying allowances at a fixed cost of $12 per ton of emissions. That price would rise at an annual rate of 5 percent above inflation. The funds resulting from the payments would be used for the development and utilization of environmentally-friendly technologies. Also included was a provision that "could effectively place tariffs on imported goods from countries that were not addressing the climate issue." Greenhouse gas levels would be restricted nationwide at 2006 levels by 2020 and 1990 levels by 2030.[21]

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said it was likely that the committee would consider the bill. Despite hesitation over it not being stringent enough, she expressed interest in several of the bills provisions.[22]

Support, opposition and critiques

The bill gained bipartisan support from several key senators and outside lobby organizations, including unions, energy companies, and conservation groups. Supporters say the legislation represents the best political compromise that strikes a balance between lower emissions and economic growth. Bingaman acknowledged criticism, stating, "I understand there are those who would like a more aggressive set of targets, but what we’re trying to do is put together legislation that can be passed." Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) called the bill “a rational response that isn’t going to sink our economy.”[23]

Critics, including many environmental groups, stated, however, that the bill was not stringent enough for combating climate change. They particularly derided the ceiling on the cost of emission allowances, claiming that such price caps limit incentives for businesses to invest in cutting-edge technology aimed at lowering greenhouse gas emissions.[24]

Emily Figdor, the Global Warming director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), argued that the bill was not strong enough. She stated:

“We commend Senator Bingaman for working to build support for action on global warming. Unfortunately, his new bill fails to deliver the pollution reductions science shows are needed in the next 10 years to stave off the most dangerous impacts of global warming for future generations.

Senator Bingaman’s weak pollution-reduction targets fly in the face of the sobering conclusions reached by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and leading U.S. scientists about how to prevent the worst impacts of global warming from becoming unstoppable.

The science demands ambitious goals, and meeting these goals won’t be easy. But they are the minimum acceptable response to the threat posed by global warming. To protect our environment, our economy, and future generations, we can’t settle for less."[25]

House

During the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives considered many bills relating to climate change. As of June 2007, the House had passed the CLEAN Energy Act, the H-Prize Act, and the Green Energy Education Act. The Climate Stewardship Act, DRIVE Act, and Safe Climate Act had been introduced to the House but no subsequent action had been taken. The H-Prize Act and DRIVE Act are awaiting consideration by the Senate, while the CLEAN Energy Act, a version of which passed the Senate, awaits a conference committee. Just before the August 2007 congressional recess, the House passed comprehensive energy legislation (H.R.3221), which consisted largely of several other measures previously passed or considered during the 110th and 109th Congresses. The bill must now be reconciled with legislation passed in the Senate.

Creation of House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

In late 2006, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of a special House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, invoking the ire of incoming House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.), whose committee would have had partial jurisdiction on global warming legislation. After a three-week turf battle, Pelosi, Dingell and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) reached an agreement that would give the standing committees the first crack at producing legislation and calling witnesses on the condition that Dingell produce a bill by June 2007. The committee was created on March 8, 2007 and is chaired by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).[26]

Main article: House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

Activity in the House Energy and Commerce Committee

In March 2007, Dingell held several hearings in the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, which included appearances by former Vice President Al Gore, scientists and representatives from the automobile industry and state and local governments.[27]

Main article: House Committee on Energy and Commerce#Climate change hearings

CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 (H.R.6)

As part of the House Democrats' "first 100 hours" agenda, they passed the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. The act would eliminate certain tax breaks previously afforded to the oil and gas industries, as well as impose new fees on them. Doing so, Democrats said, would encourage investment in, and provide funds for, alternative sources of energy. The bill passed the House on January 18, 2007 and was sent to the Senate. On June 21, 2007, the Senate passed their version of the bill, as amended including provisions of the Senate's own energy legislation, S.1419.[28]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.6" />

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="40" />

Main article: CLEAN Energy Act of 2007

Support, opposition and critiques

The Sierra Club praised the House's passage of the bill, arguing that it was an "important first step" in leading to a more secure energy future. Melinda Pierce, the Club's director of National Campaigns, stated "By supporting this part of the 100 Hours Agenda, the new Congress upholds the pledge made during the election to end corruption, bring about change and bring America closer to a cleaner, safer energy future." She argued that while American families had been forced to deal with skyrocketing energy costs, oil companies were recording record profits partly because of the generous giveaways the federal government had been providing.[29]

Climate Stewardship Act of 2007 (H.R.620)

Reps. John Olver (D-Mass.) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.) introduced the Climate Stewardship Act of 2007 (H.R.620) on January 22, 2007 to "accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by establishing a market-driven system of greenhouse gas tradeable allowances that will limit greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, reduce dependence upon foreign oil, and ensure benefits to consumers from the trading in such allowances, and for other purposes." It was the House version of the Senate's Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act (CSIA) of 2007 (S.280). It attracted 128 cosponsors[30] (as of June 2007), and was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, House Committee on Science and Technology and House Committee on Natural Resources.[31]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.620" />

The bill would establish an emissions "cap and trade" system, set to start in 2012, and require a cut in greenhouse gas emissions of 15 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2050 (focusing on electric power production and petroleum use in the industrial, commercial, and transportation sectors). It would also establish a Climate Change Credit Corporation to reduce costs to consumers resulting from this act, set higher energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards beginning in 2008 and set low-carbon electric generation standards for electric utilities beginning in 2016. In addition, it would require periodic evaluations by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[32]

Support, opposition and critiques

The organization Environmental Defense supported the provisions of the Olver-Gilchrest bill, which was first introduced by different sponsors in the Senate. For information on their commendation of the legislation, please see Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act (CSIA) of 2007 (S.280) above.

Greenpeace was considerably less supportive of the bill's provisions, as was indicated by their comments on the Senate version (see above). Their criticisms focused on the bill's emission reduction requirements and subsidies for nuclear energy.[33]

DRIVE Act of 2007 (H.R.670)

On January 24, 2007, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced the Dependence Reduction through Innovation in Vehicles and Energy Act – the DRIVE Act of 2007 – (H.R.670) to "promote the national security and stability of the United States economy by reducing the dependence of the United States on foreign oil through the use of alternative fuels and new vehicle technologies, and for other purposes." The bill attracted 82 cosponsors[34] (as of June 2007), including Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and several other Republicans. It was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, House Committee on Science and Technology, House Committee on Ways and Means, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. [35] In the 109th Congress, the bill was known as the Fuel Choices for American Security Act of 2005 (H.R.4409), and was sponsored by Rep. Kingston and 87 cosponsors.[36]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.670" />

Fuel Economy Reform Act (H.R.1506)

On March 13, 2007, Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.), along with a bipartisan group of 21 Democratic and 19 Republican original cosponsors, introduced the Fuel Economy Reform Act (H.R.1506). The bill would increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks.[37] The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.620" />

Support, opposition and critiques

The Sierra Club applauded the bill, stating:

"The Sierra Club applauds Reps. Markey and Platts for moving forward with a bill that will make our environment, economy, and the nation as a whole safer and more secure. Making our cars and light trucks go farther on a gallon of gas is the single biggest step we can take toward saving American families money at the pump, ending our dangerous addiction to oil, and curbing global warming.”[38]

The group called the measure ambitious, yet realistic, noting that it had bipartisan support. They noted that in fifteen years, the bill could save the U.S. as much oil as it (at the time) imported from the Persian Gulf. In supporting the measure, the club issued a challenge to American automakers, stating:

"It is time for automakers to get off their tailpipe and get into gear to do their fair share to curb global warming and our oil addiction. They need to take the technology gathering dust on Detroit’s shelves and put it to work to help America tackle some of its most urgent problems. Requiring the American auto industry to make more fuel-efficient vehicles is auto mechanics, not rocket science. It will force them to compete with foreign automakers like Honda and Toyota who have used hybrids and other efficient vehicles to remake their brands and cruise to record profits while the Big Three teeter on the brink of insolvency." [39]

Safe Climate Act of 2007 (H.R.1590)

On March 20, 2007, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) introduced the Safe Climate Act of 2007 (H.R.1590) to "reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the climate." It was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and received 139 co-sponsors (as of June 2007).[40]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.1590" />

The bill would establish an emissions "cap and trade" system to start in 2010, requiring a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 15 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. It would also establish passenger vehicle standards no less stringent than California's by 2014; set up a national renewable energy standard in 2009 that 20 percent of electric energy generation must be from renewable sources by 2020; create a national energy efficiency standard; and require periodic evaluations by the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether emissions targets are adequate.[41]

Support, opposition and critiques

Environmental Defense called the bill one that "could jump start the needed emissions cuts" in the U.S., and commended that it would "cap and reduce tons of heat-trapping gases, and would do so at the levels and within the time frames demanded by the science." It added, however, that like all bills, it has its pluses and minuses.[42]

The following organizations also expressed their support for the bill in a letter:

The groups cited the bill’s aggressive call to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. They also praised the bill for requiring improvements in energy efficiency to meet the goal, as well as provisions designed to help companies meet the goal through a carbon “cap-and-trade” program. The policies put forth by the bill, according to the groups, would “reduce U.S. dependence on oil, improve air quality, protect pristine places from oil drilling, and have other far-reaching benefits.”[43]

The Sierra Club referred to the bill as "the most aggressive global warming legislation introduced in the House." The group praised its call for aggressive strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also protecting state regulations and initiatives to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions.[44]

U.S. PIRG praised the bill, calling it "a science-based approach to prevent the worst impacts of global warming." The group actively asked members to contact their representatives and ask them to support the legislation.[45]

Green Energy Education Act (H.R.1716)

On June 5, 2007, the House considered a bill (H.R.1716), sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), which would authorize higher education curriculum development and graduate training in advanced energy and green building technologies.[46]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.1716" />

Specifically, the Secretary of Energy would be required to provide funds to the National Science Foundation for an Integrated Graduate Education Research Traineeship program to support graduate students pursuing energy projects. Advanced energy technology research, development and demonstration and then commercial application would then be facilitated with further grant funds to NSF.[47]

The grants would also aim to improve interdisciplinary engineering and architecture education related to design and construction of high performance buildings and to improve the ability of engineers, architects and planners to work together on incorporating advanced energy technologies in the design and construction of high performance buildings.[48]

The bill passed, 416-0.[49]

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="432" />

Support, opposition and critiques

H-Prize Act of 2007 (H.R. 632)

On June 6, 2007, the House passed the H-Prize Act of 2007, 408-8. It would establish a series of cash rewards for innovation in hydrogen energy technology. The measure sought to bring hydrogen-fueled vehicles closer to reality through government-sponsored competition. $1 million awards would be given every two years in the categories of production, storage, distribution and utilization, with one $4 million prize for a hydrogen vehicle and a final $10 million grand prize for a “transformational advance in hydrogen energy technology.”[50]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.632" />

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="433" />

Support, opposition and critiques

Comprehensive energy bill

On August 4, 2007, the House passed comprehensive energy legislation after extending their session into the weekend prior to the August 2007 recess. The legislation was split between two bills, one containing the new energy measures (H.R.3221) and one containing a corresponding tax package (H.R.2776) to pay for the programs included in the bill.[51] The legislation included many measures already considered or passed in the House from both the 109th and 110th Congresses, passing them under one overarching bill intended to promote alternative energy sources, ease pollution and climate change, and improve the energy infrastructure.[52]

Provisions included a mandate that 15 percent of retail electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2020.[53] The bill would also fund programs to research and develop alternative sources of energy, including bio-fuels, forest and marine biomass, geothermal sources, wind, and solar power. Projects geared toward carbon capture, transportation, and storage would also be funded. The bill would fund planning into the development of a national infrastructure for the transport of renewable fuels to the pump for use in automobiles and other modes of transportation. The national electricity grid would be made more reliable through the development of a "Smart Grid" system to better manage the distribution and flow of electricity. Energy efficient building construction would be promoted at the residential, commercial, industrial, and government levels, with detailed requirements to increase energy efficiency for numerous consumer products from toasters to washing machines to air conditioners. The government would be required to purchase these more energy efficient devices.

The bill also included provisions regarding international energy policy, including the creation of an Office on Global Climate Change in the State Department, and the establishment of US foreign policy "to promote United States and global security through leadership in cooperation with other nations of the global effort to reduce and stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize atmospheric concentration of such gases.” Grants and loans for developing countries to use more efficient and less pollutant energy sources were also included. The government would also be prohibited from entering into contracts with companies "for exploration of oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico until those companies agree to revise earlier contracts that inadvertently limited the amount of revenues they owed on extracting the commodities."[54] In order to pay for these provisions, the tax package included significant tax increases on the gas and oil industries.[55]

The bill did not include provisions for improved fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, as did a similar bill passed in the Senate. When Congress returns following the August recess, the House and Senate bills will have to be reconciled, and issues such as renewable-fuels mandates and fuel economy standards will be debated. Despite a commitment to improved mileage standards and alternative fuels mandates, the White House has threatened to veto the legislation, primarily over increased taxes on the oil industry.[56]

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.3221" />

The initial energy bill passed the House in a 241-172 vote.

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="832" />

The associated tax package passed in a 221-289 vote.

<USbillinfo congress="110" bill="H.R.2776" />

<USvoteinfo year="2007" chamber="house" rollcall="835" />

Support, opposition and critiques

Environmentalist praised the legislation as a significant step in the right direction, while the oil industry criticized the increased taxes it would face.[57]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court faults E.P.A. inaction on emissions

In 2007, the Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration for refusing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, siding with environmentalists in the Roberts' court's first examination of the phenomenon of global warming. The court ruled 5-4 that the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) violated the Clean Air Act by improperly declining to regulate new-vehicle emissions standards to control the pollutants that scientists say contribute to global warming.[58]

"Greening the Capitol" report

On June 21, 2007, Dan Beard, chief administrative officer of the House, released the "Greening the Capitol" report, making recommendations for how to make the House carbon-neutral by the end of the 110th Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) applauded the report, commenting, "Global warming and climate change are formidable issues that the entire world is confronting, and the United States Congress must lead by example. This plan is an essential first step."

The report called for the Architect of the Capitol to purchase renewable power, the Capitol Power Plant to use natural gas instead of coal and for the leaders to purchase carbon offsets from the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) commented, "This complex has 10,000 employees. Should we be a model? The answer is yes."[59]

Past legislative action

109th Congress

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) – the ranking Republican member and former chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee – and Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) – the ranking member and former chair of its subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality – had blocked previous climate change legislation that had come through their jurisdictions. [60]

On January 18, 2005, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) introduced the Fuel Choices for American Security Act of 2005 (H.R.4409), which received 87 cosponsors, but no action was taken.[61] It was the same bill as the DRIVE Act of 2007 (see above), introduced in the 110th Congress.

On March 29, 2006, Rep. Tom Udall (R-N.M.) introduced the Keep America Competitive Global Warming Policy Act of 2006 (H.R.5049) "to establish a market-based system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and to promote advanced energy research and technology development and deployment, and for other purposes." The bill was referred to the Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, the Science Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards; the International Relations Committee; and the Labor and the Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness and Subcommittee on Education Reform. The bill only received one cosponsor, Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.), and never received action in committee. [62]

In October 2006, however, Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) tried without success to get Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) to look at his bill on global warming. "If I thought it was a good idea, I would have already done it," Dingell said. [63]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

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