Posted by: Steven M. Taber | April 23, 2009

Day Three of Waxman-Markey Bill Hearings: No Headliners, Just Lots of Talk

On Day Three of the Waxman-Markey Bill (also known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act) hearings, perhaps the best place to begin is with Rep. Edward Markey’s (D-Mass) closing remarks, where he asked the panelists “do you think we can construct a cap-and-trade system?”  All of the panelists replied in the affirmative.  This session, without the Administration headliners of yesterday and the Pop culture icons that are scheduled for tomorrow (Al Gore and Newt Gingrich), was noticeably less on point and more meandering.  There were, however, several central themes:  cap-and-trade, Carbon Capture and Storage, and renewable energy.

Cap-and-trade

Although this topic was discussed extensively yesterday, the first panel consisted of representatives of various utility groups and consumer groups.  The electric utilities all seemed to want the same thing:  free allowances instead of having to pay for them at auctions.  They claim that this will allow the utilities to keep their prices down.  There is no surprise there.  The only interesting quote from a Congressman came, once from Rep. Joe Barton (R. Texas), who told the witnesses that “hybrid cars never pay off and American won’t drive them unless forced by the government, backed by the Army.”  How dead was it in the Committee room?  One report indicated that “the Chairman is reading a paper and only about 3 Reps are paying attention to these guys begging for handouts.”

Carbon Capture and Storage/Clean Coal

During the hearings there has been talk about “Carbon Capture and Storage.”  Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an approach to mitigating the contribution of fossil fuel emissions to global warming, based on capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources such as fossil fuel power plants and storing it away from the atmosphere.  The utilities and the coal industry believe that CCS is the way to go because it will allow them to go on using coal without producing CO2.  However, the technology is not there yet, and there is a fear that the development of CCS would draw needed dollars away from the development of other sources of energy.  Interestingly, David Hawkins of the Natural Resources Defense Council stated that CCS can happen if it has adequate policy support.

Renewable Energy

On the other hand you have the advocates for “renewable energy.”  Although most people think of solar and wind power when they think of renewable energy, there are other sources.  Geothermal energy is one such source.  Dan Reicher of Google (yes, that Google) testified that “engineered geothermal energy potential in Texas could provide 100% of Texas’ electricity needs.”  Supporters of renewable energy also came from unlikely sources, Jim Robo, President and COO of Florida Power & Light told the Committee that “we’ve barely begun to tap renewable energy . . . Unchecked climate change will cost us tens of billions of dollars.”  This thinking leads to the Waxman-Markey Bill’s call for a goal to be set that a certain percentage of energy be from renewable sources.  This has also led to various Representatives to call for the definition of renewable energy to include nuclear energy, biomass, and “clean coal.”

In the end, there was a chorus among the last panel, calling for a strong legislation to deal with climate change and energy.   One can hope that the last day of the hearings, with some heavy hitters taking the witness chair, the questioning will be a little more interesting.

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: Allocation Policies to Assist Consumers

Panel 2: Ensuring U.S. Competitiveness and International Participation

Panel 3: Low Carbon Electricity, Carbon Capture and Storage, Renewables, and Grid Modernization

Video

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