Posted by: Steven M. Taber | April 21, 2009

Day One Of House Hearings on Waxman-Markey Climate Change Bill Produces No Surprises

On Day One of a planned four days of hearings on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, there were no surprises.  This day was devoted to “opening statements” by the members of the Committee, before the Administration’s heavy hitters take the stage tomorrow. With a resounding “the time for delay and denial has come to an end,” Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) opened the hearings.

As could be predicted, the Climate Change skeptics were present.  Leading the way was Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) stating that the causes of global warming are far from settled.  Although not really doubting the existence of Climate Change, Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Texas) issued a veiled threat, claiming “we do have the capacity to withhold funding from the EPA” if the EPA chooses to regulate CO2 on its own.

Jobs and the economy were another major concern.  On the one hand you had Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.) who believes that the Bill will cost jobs and hurt an already hurting economy.  This was also the concern of Rep. Zachary Space (D-Ohio) who stated that the Bill is vitally important to the coal and manufacturing industries in Ohio – a state hard hit by the economic downturn.

On the other hand, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) related that new companies in her district are building the “clean energy economy.  They are the realities of the modern American economy.  They are real businesses creating real jobs.”  Likewise, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), added that clean energy jobs plan “is turning the Titanic around.”  Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) is worried that we are already falling behind:  “we can’t let China dominate the lithium battery car market.  We need to keep those jobs here.  This bill will do that.”  That being said, Rep. Michael C. Burgess (D-Texas) threw cold water on the notion of a clean energy economy, stating that new energy technology should be left up to stronger, growing economies.

Representatives from both sides of the aisle from coal producing had comments about the effect the Bill would have on the coal industry.  Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said that he thought that because China is building more coal plants, the United States should, too.

One of the topics that was mentioned more than once was what should be considered to be “renewable energy.”  Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) stated that he wanted clean coal and nuclear to be considered renewable, as well as credits for renewable forms of energy.  Likewise, Rep. Baron Hill, (D-Ind.) came up with an interesting proposal – he wants municipal solid waste to be categorized as a renewable resource.

As can be expected, there were many questions and comments about the structure and goals of the bill itself.  Rep. Whitfield commented that the problems with the structure of the Bill “may dwarf” those of climate change.  Like wise, Rep. Jim Mattheson (D-Utah) had many objections to content and structure of the Bill.  Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said that 20% by 2025 is impossible.  Thus, there is still much work to be done on the Bill.

At the same time, the EPA released its review of the Bill, concluding that the proposed curbs on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would allow limited economic growth while spawning development of low-carbon energy technologies.

Tomorrow, the big guns are set to appear before the Committee:  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are all scheduled to give testimony.

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