House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) released the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” (ACESA). The 648-page climate change legislation would seek to cut emissions by 2020 to a level 20 percent below 2005 emissions. By the middle of the century, the goal would be a 50 percent reduction. Supporters of the plan assert that it is a comprehensive approach to America’s energy policy that will create millions of new clean energy sector jobs, save consumers billions in energy costs, help end dependence on foreign oil, and combat climate change.

Title one of the ACESA promotes renewable energy and carbon sequestration technologies, establishes low-carbon fuel standards, and facilitates smart electrical grid technologies. The second title addresses energy efficiency by promoting energy efficient building, efficient appliance standards, and calls for new fuel and utility efficiency standards. The third title tackles global climate change through the establishment of a market-based program for cutting carbon emissions and directs the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate other greenhouse gases. The final section, title four, addresses transitioning. The legislation would authorize the government to provide climate rebates to American manufacturers, calls for the promotion of green jobs, and establishes an interagency council to coordinate the federal response to climate change.

Critics of the legislation argue that it does not address whether emissions credits would be given away free to fossil-fuel-burning businesses or auctioned off to raise money for green transit and/or taxpayer rebates. The Obama administration originally proposed auctioning off all of the credits. However, the administration recently suggested that it may only auction off a portion of them, a move that officials from the electric industry sector commend as necessary to successfully transition our energy portfolio.

Reports suggest that Waxman and Markey hope to move the legislation forward quickly. Some indications are that the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, chaired by Representative Markey, will begin holding legislative hearings as early as the week of 20 April. Reports are that House leadership would like to have the package reported from the full Energy and Commerce Committee by Memorial Day, with full House consideration to follow.

Meanwhile, Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, has introduced his own legislation, the “Cap and Dividend Act of 2009.” This 20-page plan calls for virtually identical emissions reductions as the ACESA. The Cap and Dividend Act would require the auctioning of 100 percent of carbon permits, and would return the money to every American, every month, through an energy security dividend.

The Van Hollen plan sets a deadline for capping emissions, after which companies would then have to purchase permits to cover 100 percent of the carbon. The proceeds from these permits will go towards a “Healthy Climate Trust Fund.” Not more than 50 percent of the proceeds would be used for administrative costs, and the remainder would be paid to the public as “consumer dividend payments.”


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