|US greenhouse gas emissions by fuel and sector, 2005. Click to enlarge.|
Congressmen John Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Rick Boucher (D-VA), chairman of the committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, released the first of a series of climate change white papers that are intended to focus the Committee's discussion as it develops climate change legislation.
Based on a series of hearings held earlier this year, Dingell and Boucher say that they have concluded that the US should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 60 and 80% by 2050 to contribute to global efforts to address climate change, and that the central component of an emissions reduction program should be a cap-and-trade program.
The first white paper discusses the overall benefits of a cap-and-trade system, and suggests the sectors of the economy that should be included. Subsequent white papers will address other topics including, but not limited to: cap levels and timetables; cost-containment mechanisms; carbon sequestration; offsets and credits; the role and obligations of developing countries; and the distribution of emissions allowances.
It is worth noting that while the use of white papers is not a policy-making tool frequently employed by the Committee, this topic in its scope and complexity is unlike any we have confronted and time is of the essence.
...There are many policy options available to address climate change. One is the use of carbon fees, or taxes, to establish a price on greenhouse gas emissions and thereby limit their proliferation. Other options include a rapid and substantial increase in climate research and technological development. While these are valuable tools, they do not fall under the province of the Committee and will there not the focus of these papers.—Memo to Members from Chairmen Dingell and Boucher
In September, Dingell published a legislative proposal that would create a carbon tax. Before introducing a formal bill, the Congressman is inviting constituents and other interested parties to review his current proposal and provide feedback. (Earlier post.)
With respect to the inclusion of transportation in a cap-and-trade program, the white paper notes that although the sector must be included in the cap (transportation accounted for 28% of the direct emissions of greenhouse gases in 2005), having a downstream point of regulations (i.e., the point where emissions occur) &ldquolis not workable.”
The paper suggests that one possible point of regulation of transportation emissions under a cap-and trade program could be vehicle manufacturers. However, it suggests:
A more promising point of regulation for this sector is upstream, i.e., refiners and importers. Adopting this point of regulation would require refiners and importers to turn in allowances to cover the carbon content of the transportation fuel they sell. Adopting this point of regulation...would also provide for highly accurate accounting for carbon dioxide emissions...
If refiners and importers are designated as the “point of regulation” for the transportation sector in the cap-and-trade program, a comprehensive climate change program will also regulate motor vehicle manufacturers through efficiency or other performance standards for vehicles. Such a program will also incorporate other complementary measures such as a low carbon fuel program, and tax of other incentives to increase the use of low-emitting vehicles and to decrease vehicle usage.
Whatever the resulting program for the transportation sector, the paper says, it must address all parties that contribute to emissions from the sector: vehicles, fuels and consumers.