Greenies the world over have been, by turns, snorting and smiling into their morning fair-trade rooibos over a climate bill passed by the US House of Representatives on Friday.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act, which is designed to cut carbon emissions under a cap-and-trade system, marks the first major action by the US Congress to address climate change.
If passed by the Senate (and the last one didn’t), the historic bill will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83% by 2050, create enviro-friendly jobs, boost reliance on renewable energy, and help wean the US economy off oil imports.
Though it’s already earning President Barack Obama plenty of (his own) brownie points, the Waxman-Markey bill only just scraped through the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, with 219 yea-sayers against 212 nay-sayers.
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And, as with the House, so are the pundits split on whether the bill is A Good Thing – and what it might mean for the rest of us.
Huffington Post’s H. Joseph Hebert is breathlessly anticipating an “energy revolution”:
Such a law would impact how much people pay to heat, cool and light their homes (it would cost more); what automobiles they buy and drive (smaller, fuel efficient and hybrid electric); and where they will work (more “green” jobs, meaning more environmentally friendly ones).
US Senate Minority Leader John Boehner, on the other hand, is less thrilled:
Hey, people deserve to know what’s in this pile of s–t.
Reuters’ Bennet Cohen is a little more measured in his take. He reckons the legislation could represent a giant step toward low-carbon power, but he’s putting the bill’s stated goal of reducing US dependence on oil in the ‘not very likely’ basket:
Like a doctor who must treat a patient for two distinct ailments, the U.S. government should address climate change and oil dependence with distinct policies.
But some environmentalists, Greenpeace notably included, aren’t terribly convinced about the bill’s effectiveness on any level:
As it comes to the floor, the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets. The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions. To support such a bill is to abandon the real leadership that is called for at this pivotal moment in history.
Double X’s Miriam Goldstein is just as disappointed about the kind of future this bill would promise:
The ocean creeps up
And floods the New York subway.
Three to four foot rise.
South Florida floods!
Don’t retire to West Palm.
You’ll need gills to golf.
And then there are those opting for pragmatism over poetry. Over on TreeHugger.com, Brian Merchant is adopting a beggars/choosers approach:
It’s beyond a matter of is-it-good-enough (which it may not be), but simply passing it with the provisions it currently offers is much-needed progress. We can’t sit idly by while companies continue to amp up their emissions. We need to support the clean energy economy as it finds its legs. As the most powerful nation on Earth, we can’t allow climate change to progress unchecked. We need to pass this bill – it’s an ethical necessity.
So if passed, would the Waxman-Markey bill mean anything for Australia? Strong US leadership could well force Australia to take a more active position at Copenhagen in December. The Australian’s Christian Kerr is reporting that the passage of Waxman-Markey through the US House of Reps has already shaken the Opposition into action:
The opposition has previously said it would not pass the [Emissions Trading Scheme] until the US had finalised its position and after the December UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. But Mr Turnbull said emissions trading had become “a more intense issue and focus” since the US House of Representatives passed the Clean Energy and Security Act on Saturday (AEST). Opposition support will be crucial to the government’s chances of enacting its ETS plans.