climate bill, new climate bill, Waxman-Markey bill
Susan Walsh/AP
Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. is at center, and Rep. Edward Markey,
D-Mass., listen as House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking Republican Rep. Joe
Barton, R-Texas, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 18, 2009, during the
markup of legislation on global warming and climate and energy strategy.

Debate Heightens Over Waxman-Markey Bill

June 29, 2009 06:45 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The monumental new climate bill should reach the Senate floor in September, but experts are mixed on the bill, and some are vehemently opposed to it.

The Impacts of the Bill

Passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month, the American Clean Energy and Security Act—also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, named after Democratic Congressmen Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, its cosponsors—would have implications for daily life and industry in America. Although some critics claim the bill would raise both unemployment and the cost of living, others say the bill would not do nearly enough to limit the nation’s negative environmental impact.

H. Josef Hebert, writing for The Associated Press, outlined the potential impacts of Waxman-Markey.  The cost of energy production will increase because companies would be charged for emitting greenhouse gases, or have to invest in “technologies that can capture carbon emissions” or “purchase pollution allowances.” The goal is for companies to instead “shift to cleaner energy sources.”

Additionally, homes will likely be built and financed differently, with more emphasis on energy efficiency. The job market will also shift from “energy-intensive industries” to greener environmental jobs, which could range from solar panel production to wind turbine repair, according to Hebert.

Issues could arise regarding natural gas, which would be relied upon more than coal. “[P]eople would have to decide whether to accept new pipelines that are needed to ship the gas around the country,” Hebert wrote. As for coal, it would still be a significant source of energy, but in a cleaner way, as released carbon would be captured and pumped underground. But, Hebert asked, how would people feel about carbon emissions being “stored near or under their homes, factories and businesses?”
Many are concerned about the costs of the bill.

According to Bryan Walsh of Time magazine, “critics have vastly overstated the likely cost” of the bill to families. Republican Eric Cantor cited an American Petroleum Institute (API) study claiming that Waxman-Markey would cost American families more than $3,000 per year, Time reported. But a “more reliable study from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office” predicted an average yearly energy cost increase of about $175. The discrepancy is due to the API’s neglecting to consider the influence of carbon offsets, Walsh explained.

Others in Congress gave up on the bill as compromises were made to win over farmers and manufacturers, and to “keep conservative Democrats on board,” particularly in the Midwest and Southeast where coal production is king. “Worse,” wrote Walsh, “oversight of the agricultural offsets was taken away from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and given to the Department of Agriculture, which isn't exactly a neutral party.”

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Opinion & Analysis: Arguments for and against Waxman-Markey

The sentiments of politicians and environmentalists have been varied, to say the least. Angela Ledford, the Program Director for U.S. Climate Action Network, along with ten other experts on energy and the environment, gave Yale Environment 360 her thoughts on Waxman-Markey.

“The bill, as it stands, may not reduce global warming pollution as fast as science is telling us is prudent ... So let’s be clear about what this bill provides: It gives us a framework to build on, and puts us on the path to what science says we need. But it is only the beginning,” Ledford said.

In Oregon, the divide between two Democratic congressmen illustrates the differing viewpoints on Waxman-Markey, Charles Pope of The Oregonian reported. Rep. Peter DeFazio voted against the bill out of fear of “financial and ecological frauds.” DeFazio takes issue with the fact that carbon allowances don’t expire, and can be banked or traded. He also claims that companies can reduce their carbon emissions offshore, but continue polluting in the U.S. But Rep. Earl Blumenauer staunchly supported the bill, claiming that its “modest cost” would likely lead to “millions of green jobs, including 20,000 in Oregon,” Pope reported.

Texas Republican Joe Barton was an outspoken critic of the bill, according to The Hill. Barton worried that the coal-reliant Southeast would fall behind the Northwest, where hydropower is a bigger source of electricity.

Reference: “Mapping the Green Economy”

To see how individual companies in 20 different states could change their ways if Waxman-Markey is passed, use the maps provided by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Historical Context: Clean air and clean water acts

The Encyclopedia of Earth explains the circumstances surrounding the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web site offers The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act, a helpful guide that explains the implications and necessities of the 1990 Clean Air Act.

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