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US Senators Introduce New Climate Change Bill

US Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John McCain (R-AZ), with co-sponsors Susan Collins (R-ME), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Barak Obama (D-IL), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007. The new bill—S. 280—contains a declining cap provision that cuts greenhouse gas emissions steadily over time, managing costs while effectively reducing pollution.

Lieberman and McCain have introduced climate change legislation twice before—first in 2003 and then again in 2005. The 2005 version of the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act would have capped US greenhouse gas emissions at year 2000 levels without mandating further reductions. The new bill caps the greenhouse emissions of the electric power, industrial, transportation, and commercial sectors of the economy at year 2004 levels by 2012. It then lowers that cap steadily, to cut total US emissions by two-thirds from year 2004 levels by 2050.

Under the proposed legislation, greenhouse gas emissions would be cut from 6,100 metric tons of carbon equivalent in 2004 to about 2,100 metric tons in 2050.

In his remarks to the Senate on the bill, Senator McCain asserted that there are five essential elements to “any responsible climate change measure”:

  1. Rational, mandatory emission reduction targets and timetables. It must be goal oriented, and have both environmental and economic integrity. We need policy that will produce necessary outcomes, not merely check political boxes. The goal must be feasible and based on sound science.

  2. A market-based cap and trade system. It must limit greenhouse gas emissions and allow the trading of emission credits to drive enterprise, innovation and efficiency. “Voluntary efforts will not change the status quo, taxes are counterproductive, and markets are more dependable than regulators in effecting sustainable change.

  3. Mechanisms to minimize costs and work effectively with other markets.

  4. Spurring the development and deployment of advanced technology. Nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy must be part of the equation, according to McCain.

  5. Facilitating international efforts to solve the problem.

The bill’s support for more subsidies for nuclear power generation generated disagreement among some organizations who otherwise support the provisions of the bill, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

This first global warming bill of the new Congress shows our leaders in Washington are declaring that the era of delay has ended and the year of action has begun. They know what the American public already knows: to protect the climate, the United States must start cutting global warming pollution now and reduce emissions steadily over the coming decades.

While the bill’s environmental objectives are a strong advance, one provision remains misguided. Despite the provision of billions of dollars in subsidies to the nuclear industry in the 2005 Energy Policy Act and over $85 billion in historical subsidies, the bill introduced today contains additional nuclear subsidies that NRDC continues to oppose. Additional giveaways to an industry made up of some of the world’s wealthiest firms are neither necessary nor warranted.

—Frances G. Beinecke, NRDC President

McCain countered that objection by arguing:

I know that some of our friends here in the Senate and in the environmental community maintain strong objections to nuclear energy, even though today it supplies nearly 20 percent of the electricity generated in the US and much higher proportions in places such as France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland B countries that are not exactly known for their environmental disregard. The fact is, nuclear energy is CLEAN. It produces ZERO emissions, while the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity produces approximately 33 percent of the greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere, and is a major contributor to air pollution affecting our communities.

The idea that nuclear power should play no role in our future energy mix is an unsustainable position, particularly given the urgency and magnitude of the threat posed by global warming which most regard as the greatest environmental threat to the planet.

S. 280 now goes to the Environment and Public Works Committee, where Lieberman will chair a subcommittee on climate change.

The day before the introduction of the new bill, the US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Information Administration (EIA) had published a report assessing the impacts of a proposal that would regulate emissions of greenhouse gases through an allowance cap-and-trade system. The EIA prepared the report in response to a 27 September 2006 request from Senators Bingaman, Landrieu, Murkowski, Specter, Salazar, and Lugar.

The program evaluated by the EIA is less stringent than that proposed in S. 280, and targets greenhouse gas intensity, rather than absolute levels of emissions. The targeted reduction in GHG intensity would be 2.6% annually between 2012 and 2021, then increase to 3.0% per year beginning in 2022.

According to the EIA, such a plan would have a negligible effect on the economy. Among the conclusions:

  • Costs to the US economy would total 0.1% of GDP through 2030. Cumulative GDP is projected to double from 2006 to 2030.

  • No substantial increase in electricity prices. Electricity prices would rise by less than 11% by 2030.

  • Coal use would grow by 23% by 2030 compared to 53% without the program.

  • No substantial shift to natural gas in generation. Natural gas demand is projected to increase by a mere 1% by 2030.

  • A meaningful boost for renewable energy. Non-hydro renewable electricity generation would rise by 53% by 2030.

  • Emissions are lowered by 5% (372 million tons) in 2015 and 11% (909 million tons) in 2025, and 14% (1,259 million tons) by 2030 compared to the reference case.

That 2030 target figure, however, still represents an absolute increase in greenhouse gas emissions of 18.4% over 2004 levels.




This bill would not have been necessary had the president done his job and addressed the issues in an energy plan instead of letting Chaney and the oil companies write a secret policy behind closed doors.


It is good to hear people finally talking serious about capping green house gas emissions. To increase renewables by 53% is a good first step, however this bill does leave something to be desired.

If John McCain thinks that Nuclear power is so clean, I would suggest we build our first nuclear dump is the Washington DC city limits. If it really is so safe he should be proud to have it in his backyard.

As for Solar and Wind power being too expensive, I think not. The price of wind power has come down a lot in the last 10 years. I buy 100% wind power for my home. The price of solar will come down as more companies get the quantity up there where it belongs.

If we gave preference to wind mills and solar panels produced in the USA we would have a jobs program and a clean air program at the same time.

How could we pay for this subsidy of clean energy. Simply tax carbon emissions at 5 dollars a ton and then raise the tax a dollar a year. It would not take long to clean up the air and reduce our energy imports at the same time.

FYI co2

"That 2030 target figure represents an absolute increase in greenhouse gas emissions of 18.4% over 2004 levels."
Who starts with a target without need for achievement?- oh it's the folks at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave.

FYI co2

PS: Sen. McCain,
France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland aren't working with color-coded security advisory levels.

Current Threat Level (*note the year is fudged, courtesy dept. homeland security)

January 12, 2005* — The United States government national threat level is at Yellow, or Elevated.
The U.S. threat level is at Orange, or High, for all domestic and international flights.



It's not really the expense. It's that the intermittent nature of those sources makes them unsuited for baseload applications that nuclear power is. And you can't turn up the wind should the grid need more energy to meet peak demand.


FYI co2,
France is working under enhanced security measures. The reason it is less pronounced is because French security services caught the operatives before they could act. For example, they caught the guys who were going to hijack an Air France, and use it as a cruise missile in the 90's, ala 9/11. Some of it was luck, some good intel, and some good timing.

_I'd say that fission nuke is at best, a medium term bridge to cleaner, more sustainable energy.

Roger Pham

Thanks, KJD, for posting all the points that I have in mind after reading this article.


The intermittent nature of wind or solar electricity can be easily remedied by backing these up with a network of small and low-cost distributed gensets of high efficiency, comparable to diesel generator but running on natural gas or hydrogen. These distributed generators also supply waste heat for local space heating during the winter and waste heat for absorptive cooler for summer, thus can achieve much higher overall energy efficiency than concentrated power plants that throw waste heat into the air. Being piston engine, these genset can quickly adapt to changing wind power or solar power without adverse effect on longevity, unlike turbine power plants that do not like rapid or frequent fluctuation in power output. The addition of distributed generation capacity puts almost no additional demand on the local power grid thus low invesment cost. Wireless network or wired telephone line network can be used to link all these gensets together, and a central processor can control the output of these gensets in accordance to the intensity and pattern of power demand of the local grid.


I just don't get all the negative emotional reactions to nuclear energy. I live in Nevada and I say go ahead and put the waste in a couple of giant holes in the ground. Wind and solar can't meet all of our energy needs; the cost of backup energy (not to mention the polution of diesel generators) would be incredible.

The choice between nuclear and wind+solar is a false choice. The real choice is between nuclear and coal. If we're serious about global warming AND energy independence we've got to do EVERYTHING -- nuclear, wind, solar, and conservation. Every nuclear plant means one less coal-fired plant. That's a very good thing.

Rafael Seidl

Afaiac, this McCain-Lieverman proposal is a bit of a mixed bag:

+) There is, for the first time, a bill that formally acknowledges that the behavior of US consumers and industry is (a big) part of the global climate problem. Moreover, the bill articulates specific measures to mitigate the problem over a long period of time with the objective of low impact on economic growth.
It implicitly recognizes that from an environmental point of view coal can be part of the solution only if its CO2 footprint per unit usable energy produced is reduced via some form of sequestration.
The bill also recognizes that the US simply does not have sufficiently large proven reserves of natural gas for it to play a much expanded role.
Instead, the proposal explicitly names non-hydro electricity generation (primarily, solar and wind) as required growth sectors.


-) There is nothing here about conservation. The US consumes roughly twice as much energy per unit of GNP as Western Europeans do, so even given urban sprawl and greater demand for A/C, there is plenty of room for improvement - especially on a timescale of 20-30 years. However, it does require co-operation and co-ordination at all levels of government, from federal to local. You cannot successfully address climate change exclusively from the supply side.
The proposal appears to consider solar power only in terms of electricity generation. In the transportation sector, it takes the form of (second-generation) biofuels, at least as long as the vast majority of cars and trucks continue to feature internal combustion engines.
Element #2 of the Senators' criteria for assessing any given proposal for climate change is controversial:

o voluntary efforts DO work but sadly, they are not sufficent. For example, ACEA's voluntary commitment to lower fleet average CO2 emissions by 25% from 1995 levels by 2008 has yielded a 15% reduction.

o energy taxes are not counterproductive, though they are no panacea, either. European VLFs have been based on engine displacement for decades, resulting in smaller, lighter engines rated at higher specific power. Moreover, fuel taxes have been very high for decades. In combination, European fleet average CO2 emissions per km are substantially lower than those in the US. In addition, the high cost of transportation has slowed but not prevented suburban sprawl.

Cap-and-trade could work but as Kyoto has shown, there is an urgent need for a global emissions stock exchange. Also, the emissions permits - I would call them indulgences - need to be auctioned off rather than given away, much like sections of the electromagnetic spectrum are sold to the highest bidder. Naturally, auctions of public assets indirectly lead to higher prices for consumers, i.e. they represent a hidden tax. Note also that the format of an auction can inhibit desirable innovation: time division multiplexing and frequency hopping would increase the capacity of the ether ten-fold at virtually no cost, but the subdivision of the spectrum severely limits their application.

o regulators have been very successful in effecting sustainable change in tailpipe emissions of cars and smokestack emissions from industry. By contrast, early efforts to let the auto industry determine the pace of emissions improvements went nowhere precisely because the AVERAGE consumer wants clean air but hates being the sucker who pays for it. The operative term here is: NO FREE RIDERS. Everyone must chip in and be seen to to do so, and that requires coercion (either personal shame/negative press or, formal regulation).
McCain also makes a strong push for the re-introduction of nuclear power by claiming it is CLEAN because it produces ZERO emissions. This is true only in the very narrow context of air quality. Nuclear waste is an emission, it just happens to be in the form of solids rather than gases. And those solids are so highly radioactive that half a century in, there is still no politically accepted solution for its permanent storage. Similar hurdles affect the transport and reprocessing of the waste, without which the industry would run out of fuel in 20-30 years.

Moreover, storing the rods semi-permanently on-site at the power plants represents an opportunity for determined terrorists to deliver a massive dirty bomb, impacting regional population health for many generations to come.

More prosaically, the construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations would make it even harder to manage international relations with countries that (allegedly) have ambitions of obtaining and/or proliferating nuclear weapons technology (e.g. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan). The technology for the civilian and military use of nuclear power is simply quite similar.

Lou Grinzo

Roger: And where does the hydrogen or natural gas to drive these gensets come from?

Hydrogen from electrolysis is a big energy loser. Hydrogen from natural gas creates a new reliance on a fossil fuel, as well as an enormous CO2 issue--generating one kg hydrogen from NG creates over 9kg of CO2. We need to generate less CO2, not more, and find ways to reduce, not increase, our dependency on fossil fuels.

The only way this would work is if we find a really good way to create biohydrogen in massive quantities. And I'm extremely skeptical we could overcome that combination of technical and infrastructure challenges in a useful timeframe.


Looked at globally it is already evident that nuclear will be a major source of new energy. If you haven't got lots of coal or oil and you need new base energy supply, well, that leaves nuclear. It's going to happen. The US can avoid new nuclear plants if the public doesn't want them, and we'll get what we've been getting for the past 20+ years -- more coal-fired plants. The public doesn't know it (and most don't care), but the US energy policy for electric power has been and continues to be COAL.

Sid Hoffman

McCain cares about nuclear because he's the Arizona senator. Arizona is already home to Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, the largest nuclear power plant in the United States. Further, PVNGS is operating only 3 reactors and their build-out plan accomidates 5 reactors on their current property. They could probably have even more than that if they really wanted to.

Nuclear energy is not truly a renewable resource since the fuel must be mined and will eventually run out, but since it produces very little polution to mine it, it's considered quite a lot cleaner than coal plants, for example.

Either way, this is just more politics. Remember ALL LAWS ORIGINATE IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES! The president cannot introduce laws to congress, only the House has the power to write new laws. Also keep in mind Bush has never veto'd a bill in his entire presidency. Congress could have proposed this at any time and Bush would have signed it, since he signs every bill that hits his desk.

McCain has run for president in the past and would like to run for president again in the next election. The reason he's signing on to stuff like this is that it serves the dual purpose of bringing goods back home (expansion at AZ's nuclear plant) as well as gets his name in the public eye as a centrist who could become persident.

richard schumacher

The fundamental barrier is that people generally have not yet grasped the sheer size of the energy and global warming problems nor the expense of the solutions required. Sustaining a world population of nine billion people at a Western standard of living will require increasing Earth's energy usage by roughly a factor of four, even at a European standard of energy efficiency. As Mr. Seidl notes the objections to nuclear power are political, not technical. Breeder fuel cycles using both uranium and thorium can be used which never produce weapons-grade material. High level wastes can be mostly destroyed in accelerators. If these are still (irrationally) considered unacceptable then we can use space-based Solar power, which is more expensive than nuclear but inarguably benign and, when the costs of energy storage and long-distance transmission are included, less expensive than wind and ground-based Solar power. In the short term (20-30 years), as JamesEE notes we're going to need everything.

FYI co2

I'm not against nuclear as an option to coal, but I don't think that money that should go into cleaner alternative R&D should subsidize nukes, as the NRDC stated.
Yes Allen, France has some geopolitical security issues, but in the US we already have over 100 boiling/pressurized nuke plants overlooked by the NRC, their most recent egregious admission 2 weeks ago in Phoenix,AZ


Besides Gensets, V2G is another possibility for stabilizing renewables. We don't have enough EVs right now but it looks like they will be here fairly shortly. I'm not discounting nuclear but I think maximum effort should go into alternatives if they are at least theoretically possible and much more benign.

tom deplume

Those who stay willfully ignorant of the facts of nuclear power by default sentence the world to more GHG. If radiation worries them then the hundreds of tons of radioactive isotopes spewing out of every coal burner chimney ought to be the top priority. I would gladly accept nuclear waste in my backyard provided I could use the heat given off in my house.

Bill Young

I applaud this proposed legislation, even though my preferred solution is a carbon tax rather than cap and trade.

If the cost of energy is increased, conservation will follow. Look at the consumer response to the increase in gasoline prices. The sales of light trucks and SUVs has tanked. Economical cars and, to a lesser degree, hybrids have increased in sales. The fact that small cars do not absolutely dominate sales merely indicates that the price did not go high enough. The European auto fleet gets at least 50% better mileage than the US because their gas is $5/gal.

Nuclear waste is more a political problem than a technical one. I would have no difficulty living next to Yucca Mountain (other than it is in the middle of nowhere and there is no water). I probably would prefer living on top so that I could have a better view.

The 100+ nuclear reactors in the US are all light (i.e. deionized tap) water cooled. The 30 or so new power reactors in the planning loop are also light water. These are safe and well proven designs. They do, however, only 'burn' about 3% of the fuel put into them. The other 97% is, under our current policies, destined for Yucca mountain. There are other reactor designs in the government R&D plan which can consume close to 100% of the fuel.

We do not need 30 new reactors in the US. We need about 250 new ones. This would permit replacing the entire existing coal fleet and that part of the baseload which is natural gas.

Wind and solar have a place in the generation grid. Wind can be problematic when it exceeds about 5% of the grid capacity (We are below 2% currently nationwide). Solar is predictable. It therefore does not introduce instability and thus could probably go to 25% of the grid in the desert SW. Solar is still extremely expensive but slowly coming down.

Distributed microgeneration with natural gas is a nonstarter if you want to address global warming. If you have a strong market for the low temperature reject heat, however, you might make it work. A small generator is just like a big generator except less efficient.

The only viable source of hydrogen for the next ten years without CO2 emissions is electrolysis which is not very efficient. It doesn't matter whether the electricity is nuclear, wind or solar but nuclear is cheaper. One of the planned government R&D reactors is a high temperature water cracker for hydrogen generation which, on paper, has a much higher efficiency.


Yes, while the US has just over 100 nuclear reactors, France has over 50. As a population to reactor ratio, they have more reactors to take care of than the US does. It comes out to roughly 3 times per person if you live in France vs in the US.


Some great arguments on both sides of the debate here, it was great reading everyone's comments. However, something I'm surprised nobody mentioned: Uranium is a limited resource, and at current consumption rates and total global resources (estimated), we should run out in about 30 years. Imagine if we build dozens of new plants and double our consumption, we're finished in half that time.

It's a medium-term solution, as many said, but what is "medium term?" Are we going to max out on nuclear in 20 years, and all of a sudden, put thousands of people out of work and leave billions of dollars worth of infrastructure sitting there, unusable? Why not take the time and money that would go into building these plants and either invest it in wind energy or developing solar technology (which, at present, is only about 40% efficient, but we're making huge strides). Or better yet, max out the hydroelectric capacity in the United States!

And what about hydro? It's clean, the negative environmental effects are negligible if it's done right, and it can actually produce a great deal of energy. I live in Montreal (Canada), and here in Quebec, all of our energy comes from hydro. We produce so much, we export excess energy to the USA. The US goverment should be partaking in joint ventures to build hydro plants in Canada and Central America, and import energy as it phases out coal plants. Or, as I said, build its own hydro.

The real issue is that we can't really completely phase out consumables as sources of energy. If we added up all alternative sources of energy capacity (presently feasible), it doesn't come close to the amount of energy generated by the three main consumables (oil, coal, natural gas). But this legislation is an important (and long awaited) first step to getting the government to think about sustainability and energy policy.


The reason the gop doesnt regulate co2 and climate gasses is becase DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They dont beleive in regulatng vs teching a problem. The gop tends to always favor investing in tech to fix whats rong rather then just slapping a catchy number on things and regulating it.

Now the general sway of things from the start has been that the gop would fund enough techworks projects to get the us close enough and then the dems would regulate and then in 4-8 years the gop comes back to fix whatever gets fubared by the regs and then the dems come in to fix whatever those fixes bleep up and then aliens eat our brains,,,

Yu have to o with the strengths of each party.

By the by what do you expect will happen if the ghg regs start going in and one or mopre us automakers close shop in the us and open shop in china? The dems depend on autowrokers and related unions for huge amounts of oney... BUT the smaller lighter cars are made in mexico not the us. And right now its looking like its more likelt hybrids will in the end come from china then anywhere else.

Bill Young


You are correct, Uranium, like all minerals is a limited resource. The 30 year supply you cite, however, is established reserves, not total recoverable mineralization.

The US and Russian governments have been suppressing the Uranium market for years by releasing excess stocks, much of it from obsolete weaponry. This has stifled exploration and new resource development.

With the 10X increase in Uranium spot prices, the prospectors have gone back to work. US mines which have been idle for decades are being brought back on line.

The government R&D program (called Generation IV reactors) includes reactors which improve the energy value of the fuel by a factor of 30.

The US government is ignoring it but India is pursuing the nuclear burning of Thorium which is in much greater supply than Uranium.

If you obtain complete nuclear combustion of both Uranium and Thorium, you are not talking decades of power. You are talking several centuries.

Reality Czech

Sid Hoffman:

No, only appropriations bills do.  Any other law may be introduced in the Senate.


Uranium is a limited resource, and at current consumption rates and total global resources (estimated), we should run out in about 30 years.
The oceans are full of uranium which can be recovered for perhaps $100/lb.  There is also about 4x as much thorium as uranium, and 100% of Th-232 can be bred to fissile U-233 in light-water reactors.


No matter what numbers you come up with, eventually you run out, maybe in 2100 or 2200, but eventually. You might not care, but I bet the species does. Some say fusion, but don't hold your breath waiting for that. There is not an unlimited supply of deuterium either. So, that says use the resources that we have to get as much renewable now ASAP. Renewable is well...renewable, we get a fresh supply continuously from the wireless fusion reactor called our sun. The more renewable we use instead of finite energy resources, the more finite energy resources we have saved for later, to repair, replace and make more renewable.


We can get plenty more uranium by reprocessing waste. Kicking a problem down the road a couple of hundred years isn't always bad. We'll have much better technology then to deal with it. I won't be around, but I'd bet in 150 years our energy issues will be history, and humanity will have another big problem to focus on.


First off the 30 year supply is a tiny fraction of the uranium we have available in he ground its just what we already refined.

Ssecidly that in itself is once through reaction NOT reproccessed.

That means its 600-900 years worth.

And then that means for all uranium we can afford ti mine.. god knows how much.

Ad then we have thorium...

By the time we run out of all that we will be living elsehwere with more supplies of uranium and thorium and by then id expect fusion power or even antimatter powered by massive solar stations parked close to the sun. or hell direct tapping of various suns.

Its currently planned that nuke power will go from 20% to 40% of the us power needs. And that coal will go from 50% to 40% and that renewables and hydro and wave will take up therest of the picture.

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