So the Senate Climate Bill has finally been released. After months of meetings and waiting, two Democratic Senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer have released their 800 page tome – the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.
But note there is no mention of the dreaded C word in the title – Climate.
Whether the absence of the Republican’s dreaded word will make its passage into law any easier is doubtful, but already it has received mixed reactions, with business lobby groups opposing it and Republicans saying they will fight it all the way.
You can see why they are annoyed. It has a stronger emissions reduction target that the House bill. By 2020, there must be a 20 percent reduction below 2005 levels, whereas the House called for a 17 percent reduction over the same period. Both the new Senate draft and the House-passed bill would require an 83 percent reduction by 2050.
Obama, naturally applauded the legislation, saying it moves the U.S. “one step closer to putting America in control of our energy future and making America more energy independent.”
Despite the slightly more ambitious targets this is still far too small for what actually is needed, though. Even mild-mannered WWF called the targets “too weak”.
Greenpeace was more blunt calling the cuts “meagre”, whilst having “huge subsidies and loopholes for corporate polluters”, said Rolf Skar of Greenpeace “What we need now is strong leadership from President Obama – he must reject fossil fuel industry attempts to define the strength of the international climate agreement in Copenhagen,” he said, “Obama is the President of the United States – oil and coal industry lobbyists are not.”
Friends of the Earth was equally dismissive. The 20 percent reduction by 2020 is “nowhere near what a fair U.S. contribution to a global emissions reductions should be to avert climate catastrophe,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica.
Critics have pointed out that there is no Cap and Trade system embedded in the bill, which is apparently being left to the Senate Finance Committee, which is already over-burdened with health insurance reform.
John Kerry is arguing that a cap-and-trade bill could be voted on in time for the Copenhagen Summit in December.
But most commentators believe that to be unlikely, as the Senate sinks into the quagmire of healthcare reform, so the bill will probably not be debated until 2010, after Copenhagen.
Getting the bill approved by the Senate “is not going to be easy,” Kerry said. “Washington is used to letting big oil and special interests stand between us and the goals of everyday citizens.”
One of those interests – was happily scaremongering yesterday. American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard argued the legislation would make gasoline prices double.
But there are cracks in the once mighty business lobbies. Nike has recently resigned from the US Chamber of Commerce because of the group’s view on climate change.
But expect a bruising fight, with even Arnold Schwarzenegger warning of a “pushback” from global warming sceptics.
“For them it’s more important to keep going and polluting the world and just making some money, rather than cleaning the world,” he said.
Right on Arnie – you get stuck in there!