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”:
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.
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.”
Mechanisms to minimize costs and work effectively with other markets.
Spurring the development and deployment of advanced technology. Nuclear, solar, and other alternative energy must be part of the equation, according to McCain.
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.
“An Ambitious, Centrist Approach to Global Warming Legislation”; David D. Doniger, Antonia V. Herzog, Daniel A. Lashof;; Science 3 November 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5800, pp. 764 - 765 DOI: 10.1126/science.1131558