The Dernogalizer

April 25, 2009

Obama Should Play Hardball

I’ve been blogging consistently about the climate bill written by Congressmen Markey and Waxman which is being considered by the Energy and Commerce Committee.  Right now, the bill is in sub-committee and about to be marked up and negotiated on.  Although the short term target of 20% by 2005 is not strong enough, moderate and conservative Democrats on the committee are looking to weaken the bill. Right now the main compromise looks as though it’s going to be on emissions targets and permit allocations.  Excerpt below..

“The talks suggest that utilities that distribute electricity from coal-fired plants are making progress in their efforts to get free access to 40 percent of the emissions permits, underscoring the challenge lawmakers face in seeking strict limits on carbon dioxide and other contributors to warming.”

Of course, allocating permits to polluters for free really defeats the purpose, which is to make the polluters pay for polluting.  The risk of selling permits for free is that utilities raise prices anyways on consumers, but the government has not sold enough permits to offset this increased cost by spending the revenue on energy relief.  In otherwards, people are not going to fare any better under 40% permits sold for free than 100% sold for a price.  In fact, they may fare worse.  It also means it will be harder to hit reductions targets.  

However, Congressman John Dingel has predicted a bill will pass in some form because of the fact that the EPA has deemed greenhouse emissions a health hazard, and can exercise the authority to regulate them if Congress does not.  In otherwards, if the EPA wanted to right now, they could set their own rules for polluters with their own targets without needing the Congress.  Here is what was said regarding this in the article I posted last week…

“EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson cautioned that regulations are not imminent and made clear that the Obama administration would prefer that Congress address the climate issue through a broader “cap-and-trade” program that would limit heat-trapping pollution.  But she said it was clear from the EPA analysis “that greenhouse gas pollution is a serious problem now and for future generations” and steps are needed to curtail the impact.  Even if actual regulations are not imminent, the EPA action was seen as likely to encourage action on Capitol Hill.  It’s “a wake-up call for Congress” — deal with it directly through legislation or let the EPA regulate, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate committee dealing with climate legislation. If Congress doesn’t move, Boxer said she would press EPA to taker swift action.”

Right now the EPA is saying to Congress “you do it”.  However, Congress appears on the verge of weakening the bill substantially in a way that it does not reflect what Barack Obama has said he wants, which is a 100% auction of the permits.  If Obama is smart, he will play hardball with the members of Congress currently making deals regarding the bill.  Obama should tell the moderate and conservative Democrats that if they weaken the bills targets, or try and give away any of the permits for free, then he will veto the bill and have the EPA regulate on his terms.  That would be playing hardball, and right now with lobbyists playing that same hardball to water down the bill and compromise my generation’s future, that is what we need.

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