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Energy Bill Clears the House, But Hurdles & Open Questions Remain

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 has just cleared its biggest hurdle yet, winning approval from the House of Representatives in a close 219-212 vote late on Friday. The bill has already had a long and bumpy ride since a draft began circulating nearly three months ago — but while today’s victory may help build momentum for the bill, it’s far from a done deal.

waxman-voteAt this point, the Senate still has to negotiate and vote on its own version of the climate and energy bill, which some environmental groups say falls short. After the Senate vote, the two chambers have to come up with a compromise version of the proposal to create mandates for increased reliance on renewable energy and the country’s first comprehensive regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, through a cap-and-trade system or marketplace for buying and trading pollution credits.waxman-finalvoteHouse Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (pictured, speaking after tonight’s vote) and Edward Markey, who chairs the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, anticipated that controversy would swirl around their proposal (opponents have called it “national energy tax” and a “job killer”) — that’s why they introduced it, at first, as a “discussion draft.” Speaking on the House floor shortly after the final votes came in today, Markey called the passage a “historic achievement.”

If the law does go into effect, we can expect even more negotiations, since the legislation will likely leave some important questions open for federal agencies to answer as they implement the new framework. For example, what kinds of projects can be marketed and sold as carbon offsets? What’s more, the government will periodically reassess emission targets — so wherever Congress sets those targets in the final legislation, they will be subject to change, and likely significant debate, in coming years.

In the meantime, Waxman-Markey supporters are celebrating a victory. Earlier today former Vice President Al Gore called the bill “truly meaningful legislation to limit global warming pollution, vastly expand our use of renewable energy, and use energy far more efficiently,” and in a nod to criticism that political compromises have gutted the bill of any power to make a significant dent in climate change, he added:

This bill doesn’t solve every problem, but passage today means that we build momentum for the debate coming up in the Senate and negotiations for the treaty talks in December which will put in place a global solution to the climate crisis….There is no back-up plan. There is not a stronger bill waiting to pass the House of Representatives.

Today’s vote brings us one step closer to putting a price on carbon — one of the most critical policies for supporting the cleantech industry. As Better Place’s Jason Wolf said in a roundtable discussion at the Clean Tech Investment Summit earlier this year, “Everyone in this room has a better chance of standing up to the incumbents,” if that happens.

Incumbents, however, aren’t about to roll over. As Ford Motor (s F) CEO Alan Mulally said yesterday to a room full of utility executives at the Edison Electric Institute conference in San Francisco, “We’re going to have a lot of time to really debate this. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Screen grab images courtesy C-SPAN

17 Responses to “Energy Bill Clears the House, But Hurdles & Open Questions Remain”

  1. his letter was sent to the Congressman & Senators of Oklahoma. I hope that someone out there will begin to have concern for the 20,000 plus out of work. This bill will destory the life that so many are use to. Not only by creating more unemployed, but increasing the monthly cost of heating, cooling and cooking for your families.

    Dear Senator,

  2. Stephenie

    This letter was sent to the Congressman & Senators of Oklahoma. I hope that someone out there will begin to have concern for the 20,000 plus out of work. This bill will destory the life that so many are use to. Not only by creating more unemployed, but increasing the monthly cost of heating, cooling and cooking for your families.

    Dear Senator,

    I am not a professional writer; I am just a God loving American, Mom of 3 and Wife of an Oil Field Worker. Why do I tell you this, because I don’t want you to read this and expect a perfect piece of literature!
    I am writing to you in hopes that you will read this email with an open mind and open heart. I pray when it comes time for you to place a vote for President Obama’s Energy bill and Cap & Trade agreement, that you take into consideration the out of work Oil field Workers.
    The Oil field workers; who you never hear about on the news, when you’re hearing about the major businesses closing their doors. The Thousands of Oil Field Workers out of work across our Nation. Some of these men have been laid off and get to file unemployment; thank God for that for these families. Others, a mass majority of them are contract hired and have no unemployment benefits.
    As of today one year ago, the rig count from Baker Hughes was 1913 drilling rigs in the field, today June 26, 2009 that rig count stand at 917, that is 996 not operating today. The average drilling rig for one job would roughly keep 20 men employed. Sir, that means that there are 19920 workers unemployed, from this one industry.
    Now please don’t take me wrong, because most people would say these men make, 5 times, maybe even 10 times the amount the average Oklahomans makes in a year and they are correct in saying so, but these same men, help support the small communities they work in and live in, these are the men who because they are contract hire, have to pay for private healthcare insurance for their families at times ranging up to $1000.00 a month, the same men who have to carry the maximum insurance on their auto insurance, just to drive onto the oil patch, the same men who can’t buy life insurance because they have one of the top 5 most dangerous jobs in the World.
    When the average American thinks about Oil Field workers, they think crude oil. I have asked many people “give me a word that you would use to describe an Oil Field worker”. These are some: Dirty! Nasty! Smelly! Selfish! Rich!
    Not very flattering words, not a word that my husband likes to hear people think of him. But, you see my husband doesn’t work in the Crude Oil Business, he works in the “OIL & GAS” business, GAS meaning Natural Gas. The by-products of the processing of Natural Gas include ethane, propane, butanes, pentanes and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, elemental sulfur, and sometimes helium and nitrogen. It is an important fuel source, a major feedstock for fertilizers, and yes a potent green house gas.
    I ask do these people who think of all “Drilling” to be bad, dirty and selfish, not use any of the above mentioned gas resources Natural gas is also an essential raw material for many common products, such as: paints, fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, dyes, photographic film, medicines, and explosives. Natural gas has thousands of uses and industry depends on it. It’s used to produce steel, glass, paper, clothing, brick, electricity and much more! More than 62 percent of homes use natural gas to fuel stoves, furnaces, water heaters, clothes dryers and other household appliances. It is also used to roast coffee, smoke meats, bake bread and much more. . Do they not heat their homes, with Natural Gas? Do they not BBQ on Labor Day, with propane? Do they not have romantic nights with candles, lit with butane lighter? Do they not buy balloons for their children’s birthday parties, filled with helium?
    There are thousands of out of work Oil Field Workers right now, that can not get a job! My husband being one, he has heard over and over again in the last year and half the same words during an interview, “Mr. (withheld), it has been my experience in the past when hiring Oil Field Workers, that I hire you, I train you and I lose you, as soon as the Oil Field work picks back up, I am truly sorry but I can not afford to hire you”.
    So Senator, where does this leave my family? No income! We are responsible, we put away for a rainy day. We had enough money to pay for 6 months of our bills, put away. It’s gone!
    Today, I decide do I pay my mortgage or save that money to keep electricity on next month and food on my table for my children. Today, I tell my 10 year old she can’t go to her friend’s birthday party, because I can not pay for the trip to the water park they are going on. Today, I tell my 13 year old to drink another glass of water, after he finished his dinner and said he was still hungry, because I want to save what is left for lunch tomorrow.
    Is this bill about Global Warming? Not to me! It’s about taking work from America. Because as a society we area accustom to certain things. Such as pushing a button and heating our home; taking a hot shower; cooking our food on a stove. Will society today return to the way of the past? Boiling water to bathe? Not coloring our hair? Not painting our homes? I don’t think so! So what will happen, we will be resourceful and get it from somewhere else, another country!
    So to me, Sir this bill is about keeping the work in America! Keeping 20,000 men and woman employed.
    I beg of you Sir, please open your heart, open your soul and see that this isn’t a policy of choice! It’s a policy of LIFE and survival for your fellow Americans.

    God Bless!

    Concerned MOM & Proud Oil Field Wife

  3. I know that none of Hollywood’s better Utopian visions of a clean futuristic planet have petrochemical fuels or iron coal-fired ovens, but we’re not going to get that vision if we shut off “legacy” energy sources. Geothermal energy seems most promising, but it’s decades away from being practical. In short, we’re going to save the planet by going back to the 7th century and deforestation so we can build fires to cook and stay warm. So much for saving the planet. China and India have yet to show any reaction to our unilateral economic suicide but hearty laughter. They have no intention of strangling their own economies.

  4. hsr0601

    I’d encourage the skeptics over the man-made climate change to think of the sky in Beijing.
    The current consumption of dirty, noxious energy reminds me of human smoking habit.