New proposed Senate energy bill, new challenges
What is "The Clean Jobs and American Power Act"? Is it really just another energy tax, or is it America's way out to a greener, more successful future?
Friday, October 2, 2009 - 11:02
On September 30, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced new legislation for consideration, an energy and power generation act entitled The Clean Jobs and American Power Act. The sister act, so to speak, of the Waxman-Markey bill (the American Clean Energy and Security Act approved earlier this year in the House), the Senate bill touches on various aspects of energy generation and consumption such as greenhouse gas reduction programs and investment in green vehicle technologies.
According to the Senators, The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act will, "...cut carbon pollution and stimulate the economy by creating millions of jobs in the clean energy sector," while remaining deficit neutral. That's a pretty tall order for a country coming out of an economic coma. "This is a security bill that puts Americans back in charge of our energy future and makes it clear that we will combat global climate change with American ingenuity," said Kerry. Senator Boxer continued, "We know clean energy is the ticket to strong, stable economic growth ... This is our time. Global warming is our challenge. Economic recovery is our challenge. American leadership is our challenge. Let's step up right now."
With the American unemployment rate hitting 9.7 percent in August 2009, seeing a bill that specifically says it's going to create jobs should give some a sigh of relief. However, Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, like Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) are much less enthused about the latest release aimed at controlling emissions and encouraging investment in new technologies, calling the Boxer-Kerry initiative a, "...massive energy tax," which will "...destroy jobs, raise electricity and gasoline prices, and make America less competitive." Regardless of the merits of the Republicans' claims, there is a general fear that this bill will place a greater economic strain on a delicately recovering economy, and on the heels of a major health bill debate which has worn even the most zealous "change" supporters down to a nub.
However, that hasn't dissuaded the Senators from releasing what they call, "...our chance to reclaim our energy destiny." The hope is that with a comprehensive and functional bill, emissions will be cut by 20 percent by 2020 (rather than 17 percent, as forged by Waxman and Markey) and creation of a new market that will demand a local work source (one that can't be outsourced elsewhere). The key point in this bill is the "Pollution Reduction and Investment" component. Essentially, rather than using traditional methods to control pollution output (command-and-control), the private sector will be utilized to create a value and demand for reduction and output exchange. In layman's terms: cap-and-trade. The press releases and draft bill that have been released thus far are vague on the specifics of how carbon credits, referred to as vouchers, will be distributed. Some deference will be given to coal plants if they utilize the latest technology in their systems. However, it remains to be seen exactly how vouchers will get spread across the system.
Where will this bill leave Americans? The obvious hope is with a greener, cleaner America, not to mention employed. The true question here is when? While many may feel that these changes are too much, too soon, there is an acknowledgment that a multitude of tasks outlined in this bill are nothing new. Environmental groups and communities were demanding pollution caps and changes for decades. They were somewhat appeased by the passage of landmark acts, like the Clean Air Act, but with no major revisions or updates since the 1970s, improvement is long overdue. The real test of whether this bill will make it from cradle to law still remains.