Summary Of The Waxman-Markey Climate Bill: American Clean Energy and Security Act.

David Quilty

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June 27, 2009

Some of the key points of the American Clean Energy & Security Act from Grist, since they know better than I do. You can head to their site to read the nitty gritty, but here is a general summary:

Renewable electricity standard

The bill creates a renewable electricity standard (RES) that would require large utilities in each state to produce an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources. Qualifying renewable sources are wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, marine and hydrokinetic energy, biogas and biofuels derived exclusively from eligible biomass, landfill gas, wastewater-treatment gas, coal-mine methane, hydropower projects built after 1992, and some waste-to-energy projects.

Emission cuts

The bill would put a cap on emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases, and would require high-emitting industries to reduce their output to specific targets between now and the middle of the century. (This is the “cap” part of the “cap-and-trade” program.) The bill covers 85 percent of the overall economy, including electricity producers, oil refineries, natural gas suppliers, and energy-intensive industries like iron, steel, cement, and paper manufacturers.

Emission permits

Regulated industries would need to acquire permits for their emissions. (Emission permits are also referred to as “carbon credits,” “pollution allowances,” and various combinations of these words.)

If a company cuts its emissions so much that it has more permits than it needs, it can sell excess permits to other companies or bank them for future use. If a company doesn’t have enough permits, it can buy more or borrow its future credits and pay interest on them. Non-regulated entities (banks, nonprofits, people like you) can also buy and sell permits. (This is the “trade” part of the “cap-and-trade” program.) If a company’s emissions exceed its permits, it would be fined two times the fair market value of the permits it should have purchased.

How permit auction revenue would be spent

About 15 percent of the pollution permits would be sold by the federal government in the initial years of the program. Here’s how the revenue would be spent (shown as a percentage of the value of all permits):

* 15 percent would be used to offset increased energy costs for low- and moderate-income households
* 5 percent would be used to prevent international deforestation, scaling back to 3 percent from 2026 to 2030 and 2 percent from 2031 to 2050
* 2 percent would be used to help the U.S. adapt to the negative effects of climate change from 2012 through 2021, scaling up to 4 percent from 2022 through 2026 and 8 percent thereafter; half would be spent on wildlife and natural resources and the other half on other adaptation concerns, like public health

Investments in energy technology

By 2025, the bill would direct an estimated total of $190 billion to energy technologies and efficiency measures:

* $90 billion to energy-efficiency and renewable-energy technologies
* $60 billion to carbon-capture-and-sequestration technology
* $20 billion to electric vehicles and other advanced automotive technologies
* $20 billion for basic scientific research and development


Regulated companies would be allowed to purchase carbon offsets to meet a portion of their required emission reductions, meaning they could fund clean-energy projects elsewhere instead of cutting their own emissions. This could lower the cost of complying with the new law.

Coal-fired power plants

* New coal plants could be built between 2009 and 2020, though they would be expected to adopt carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) technologies when they become commercially available
* By 2025, all coal plants built after 2009 would have to capture 50 percent of their CO2 emissions

Worker transition

* Workers displaced due to new emission regulations would be entitled to 156 weeks of income supplement (70 percent of their average weekly wages), 80 percent of their monthly health-care premium, up to $1,500 for job-search assistance, and up to $1,500 for moving assistance

Smarter cars and smarter grids

* The bill includes a “cash-for-clunkers” program that would provide roughly 1 million vouchers, ranging from $3,500 to $4,500 in value, to consumers who trade in older, less-fuel efficient vehicles for new vehicles that get better gas mileage


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