Posted by: Steven M. Taber | April 22, 2009

Day Two of Waxman-Markey Hearings: EPA, Energy and Transportation All Show Up

Day Two of the Hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, proved to be as contentious as expected.  There was much evidence that the Bill would not have an easy road ahead of it, since the Committee is deeply divided.  Although there were a few forays into the ridiculous, (Rep. John Shimkus (R.-Ill.:  “I think this is the greatest assault on democracy and freedom that I’ve ever seen in Congress;” Energy Secretary Steven Chu comparing the Bill to Wayne Gretsky’ famous comment that “I was good because I skated to where the puck will be” (upon reflection, that comparison does work)), the Committee focused its questions to Panels (which featured EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood) on the issues of jobs, allowances, energy costs, and American leadership in the world.

Jobs

In these times of economic uncertainty, no issue pulls at the hearts of politicians than jobs, especially when it can be used to hammer a point home.  Rep. Joe Barton (R.-Texas) led the way citing statistics from the National Association of Manufacturers, the Heritage Foundation, and Charles Rivers Associate claiming that the bill would result in anywhere from 1.8 to 7 million jobs “destroyed.”  Rep. Shimkus made his statement about jobs in a more theatrical way, stating that “those of us who want jobs are going to try to defeat this bill” while hoisting a small lump of coal for the panelists to see.

On the other hand, the proponents of the Bill were not about to concede that the Bill would cause mass unemployment.  Rep. Waxman asked EPA Administrator Jackson, Secretary Chu, and Secretary LaHood if they believed that the Bill would create jobs.  Administrator Jackson replied that she believed the Bill is a “jobs bill.”  Secretary LaHood added that the legislation would create jobs, “especially green jobs.”  Secretary Chu agreed that the Bill would create millions of jobs and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Cap-And-Trade and Allowances

The part of the Bill that drew the most fire were the allowances:  should they be given away or should be they auctioned or should there be some sort of hybrid.  Administrator Jackson stated for the record that the Obama Administration supported the idea that 100 percent of the allowances should be auctioned.  In response to Rep. Jay Inslee’s (D.-Wash.) statement that we have to multiple approaches to addressing the problem through EPA regulations and a cap passed by Congress, Administrator Jackson stated that she “could not agree more.”  A cap-and-trade law, she continued, was “powerful and necessary,” but we need other regulations as well.

Understandably, the energy company officials who testified were not so eager to embrace a 100% auction.  They wanted at least some free allowances, while various scientists ad economists stated that a cap-and-trade with an auction is the only way to go.  Rep. Cliff Stearns (R.-Fla.) stated that “free carbon credits were windfall profits in Europe.”  Contrast that statement with  Rep. Ralph Hall’s (R.-Texas) statement that “we’ll be in a weakened position if adopt cap-and-trade.”  Thus, there is much work to get to a point where there can be agreement on whether there should be a cap-and-trade, let alone whether it should be a 100% auction of allowances or something else.

Energy Costs

The other big issue at the Hearing, particularly with respect to the later panels, was energy costs.  Rep. Barton told the Committee that “the debate is not about whether cap-and-trade legislation will raise energy costs; the only dispute is by how much.” He then went on to cite “findings” that the Bill would increase household energy costs up to $3,128 per year and that “filling your gas tank will cost anywhere from 60 to 144 percent more.  The cost of home heating oil and natural gas will nearly double.”  Rep. Fred Upton (R.-Mich.) commented that this was not a “cap-and-trade,” this was a “cap-and-tax.”

The response to this onslaught was a little more nuanced.  Secretary Chu responded that “it would be unwise to want to increase the price of gasoline” and then went on to outline the plans to lower transportation costs with electric cars, and low-carbon fuels, among other things.  In response to a question from Rep. Jane Harman (D.-Calif.) Secretary Chu indicated that refrigerators use one quarter the amount of energy they used in 1975 and these are real savings seen by households.  He then concluded by stating his belief that the “overall costs of living . . . can be held constant.”  Even the ConocoPhilips Executive Red Cavaney stated that although there will be costs “the benefits to the overall American economy will outweigh these costs.”

American Leadership

Another area of concern addressed at the Hearing was the wisdom of the United States regulating climate change when there are no assurances that the number one and two emitters in the world – China and India – will also take steps to reduce their emissions.  Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) asked Secretary Chu:  “If we unilaterally move to take steps and China and India and other countries are not, how do we deal with that?”  Chu responded that that he believed that the United States should take a leadership role on this issue.  This sentiment was echoed by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) who stated that she believed that America should lead and not wait for India and China to get their act together.

Compromise

Outside the Committee Room Rep. Rick Boucher (D.Va.) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D.Utah) stated that they would meet with Chairman Waxman to discuss a comprehensive amendment that could be presented on Thursday.  Rep. Boucher stated that the Bill’s schedule was “achievable” but it would depend on whether an agreement could be quickly reached on issues including how to allocate credits to existing industries, the schedule for reducing carbon emissions and flexibility in meeting renewable electricity requirements.

Click on “continue reading” for a complete Witness List with links to the witnesses written testimony and links to the video of the Hearing.

Witness List

Panel 1: Administration Views on “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ Legislation

Panel 2: United States Climate Action Partnership Views on “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ Legislation

Panel 3: Additional Views on the “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″

Panel 4: Green Jobs and Economic Benefits

Video

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