House Energy Committee Passes Clean Energy Legislation

On May 21, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee approved The American Clean Energy and Security Act, legislation described as a comprehensive approach to America’s energy policy and a clean energy economy, by a vote of 33 to 25.

"Today, the Committee took decisive and historic action to promote America's energy security and to create millions of clean energy jobs that will drive our economic recovery and long-term growth," said Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. "This bill, when enacted into law this year, will break our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation the world leader in clean energy jobs and technology, and cut global warming pollution.”

"With this plan, we will shape a new energy destiny for our country, where we innovate more and pollute less," added Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee. "Today, we have chosen bold action to preserve good paying jobs here in America and preserve our planet. In just 8 weeks, Chairman Waxman and I, working with our entire committee, have moved us farther down the path toward energy independence than our country had moved in the past eight years."

According to the legislation’s advocates, the American Clean Energy and Security Act will create millions of new clean energy jobs, save consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs, enhance America's energy independence and cut global warming pollution. To meet these goals, the legislation has four titles:

  • A clean energy title that promotes renewable sources of energy, carbon capture and sequestration technologies, clean electric vehicles, and the smart grid and electricity transmission.
  • An energy efficiency title that increases energy efficiency across all sectors of the economy, including buildings, appliances, transportation and industry.
  • A global warming title that places limits on emissions of heat-trapping pollutants. This legislation would cut global warming pollution by 17 percent compared to 2005 levels in 2020, by 42 percent in 2030 and by 83 percent in 2050. These are science-based targets and within the range agreed to by USCAP.
  • A title that protects U.S. consumers and industry and promotes green jobs during the transition to a clean energy economy.

ALEC Raises Energy Price, Job Loss Concerns

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an individual membership organization of state legislators, opposes the legislation, saying it will raise energy prices on American consumers, cause job loss and put the United States at a competitive disadvantage in the global economy. According to ALEC, the act “imposes for the first time in the U.S. a cap and trade system for carbon dioxide that promises to vastly expand power in Washington and to plague America's economy with fraud, waste and inefficiency.”

"The zeal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at any cost at a time when so many American families are struggling economically is disappointing," said Alan Smith, ALEC's executive director. "And let us remember that reducing CO2 emissions is no end in itself," he continued. "At the end of this exercise in self-impoverishment we may find we have produced no environmental benefit whatsoever."

A Triple Opportunity

The Energy and Commerce Committee, however, pointed out that the legislation has received wide support from electric utilities; energy companies; manufacturing, industry and corporate companies; labor unions; and more.

Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute(WRI), said the committee seized a “triple opportunity” that includes combating climate change, enhancing the nation’s security and unleashing American ingenuity for building the economy of tomorrow.

“As a founding member of the United States Climate Action Partnership, WRI welcomes this important first step in fulfilling the partnership’s goal of ‘prompt enactment of national legislation in the U.S. to slow, stop, and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions over the shortest time reasonably achievable,’” Lash said.

The Dow Chemical Co. also congratulated committee members on approving the legislation. Sound and predictable climate policy will not only protect the environment but will also unleash investment in new technologies that will advance energy security and sustainability, the company said.

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