Even though this year is on track to become the hottest on record worldwide, the U.S. Senate is postponing introduction of a comprehensive climate and energy bill until September, writes Reuters. Instead Senate majority leader Harry Reid will push forward a more narrowly-focused energy bill that will reconsider offshore oil drilling rules and promote energy efficiency. Some argue that delaying action on the bill effectively kills it because political pressures to vote against the bill will only grow more intense closer to the November election.
According to Reuters, Republicans have been “near unanimous in their opposition to climate change legislation, saying the bill would be little more than an energy tax that would imperil an economy struggling to recover from recession.” To gain bipartisan support, a bill will need to be stripped of any rules capping carbon emissions or mandating power companies to generate renewable or clean energy, actions that could raise energy prices.
Failure to act on emissions could have wider impacts: The absence of a bill that imposes fees on carbon emissions may stymie efforts by utilities and industries to increase investment in clean energy technologies. Additionally, Reuters argues that not acting could negatively impact the U.S.’s ability to influence global climate change negotiations. No domestic agreement may mean less pressure on China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and other major developing-country polluters that have opposed mandatory global caps. (Still, according to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), China may soon have more stringent carbon limits than the U.S. has in place. The country is also planning a new carbon trading market).
As an alternative plan, the Obama administration may be moving foward with regulating emissions through the E.P.A. under the Clean Air Act. The agency is already regulating emissions from cars and requires power plants to apply for permits to spew CO2. To ensure this regulatory approach remains an option, the administration is working to fend off legislation that will limit the E.P.A.’s ability to regulate GHGs. However, The New York Times’ Dot Earth blog writes that others argue the Obama administration is showing a lack of leadership on climate change and may continue to punt on the issue.
A new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) says a national cap and trade system is needed to reduce GHG emissions by 17 percent by 2020, but E.P.A. regulation of emissions and state and local action can serve as stop-gap measures. The New York Time’s Green blog writes: “The institute said that the E.P.A., invoking the Clean Air Act, and the Department of Transportation, using its regulatory power over fuel efficiency, could make major strides over the next decade in reducing carbon dioxide pollution.” Examples of innovative state and local planning on climate change (see earlier post) include King County’s Climate Adaptation Plan.
Also, check out Thomas Friedman’s op-ed outlining how a bipartisan case could be made for climate and energy legislation at the federal level.
Image credit: 2004 California Heat Wave / NASA Earth Observatory