Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tougher climate bill being proposed by Rep Markey

Below is a story about a new climate bill coming out from the House of Representatives. This bill is much more stringent than the Lieberman-Warner bill and provides little transition assistance for industry and consumers.

Although this story says the bill will have an offset market, I am very dubious that the architecture of that program will be workable at all since it has the praise of groups like Environment America (formerly known as US-PIRG) and they are notorious in their opposition to agriculture offsets.

Just another thing to keep your eye on -- and another reason why it is so critical for agriculture to be championing its own interest. If the ag industry can not bring something positive to the table, they will get something negative. That's just the way the process works.

CLIMATE: Markey unveils bill for slashing emissions 85 percent (05/28/2008)

Darren Samuelsohn, Greenwire senior reporter

A close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) detailed a new global warming bill today that presses for cuts in U.S. heat-trapping emissions that far exceed those in other proposals being debated in Congress, including a Senate measure scheduled for floor debate early next week.

Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey's climate bill -- to be formally introduced Tuesday -- seeks to curb midcentury carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent through a cap-and-trade system that would start operating in 2012. (Click here to read the executive summary of the bill.)

Climate Change: Taking stock of Industrial Emissions -- An E&E Special Report
Lieberman-Warner: The 60-vote climb chart

Speaking at the Center for American Progress in Washington, Markey said his bill was the byproduct of lessons learned during his 17 months as chairman of the Pelosi-created House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Since January 2007, Markey has held more than 40 hearings on climate and energy issues and led lawmaker delegations to India, Greenland and the Amazon rainforest.

Markey calls his bill the "Investing in Climate Action and Protection Act." For the tech-savvy, he also dubbed it "iCap."

The climate legislation takes a more aggressive stance on emission limits compared with the Senate bill due on the floor next week from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), John Warner (R-Va.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). That bill would reduce emissions by 71 percent in 2050.

Markey's plan also reaches further than the Lieberman-Warner-Boxer bill in heeding environmentalists' calls for the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars in emission credits.

At its start, the Markey bill would auction 94 percent of the program's allowances. The auction proceeds would be used for a cross-section of items Markey sees as helping to make the U.S. economy more climate-proof, including tax cuts for low- and middle-income Americans, energy technology research, energy efficiency and adaptation.

The remaining 6 percent of the allowances would be given away to U.S. manufacturers most vulnerable to trade competition, including the steel, aluminum, paper, iron and cement sectors. By 2020, those industries would no longer get any allowances for free as the cap-and-trade program transitions to a complete, 100 percent auction.

Overall, Markey said his bill covers heat-trapping emissions from 94 percent of the economy. That means mandatory limits for some 10,000 major industrial facilities, such as power plants, petroleum refineries and natural gas distributors.

'Breath of fresh air'

Prospects for Markey's bill are far from clear. The lawmaker said he had briefed Pelosi on the new legislation but offered no other assurances it would see action this year.

Markey, a 17-term congressman, holds a senior position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which holds jurisdiction over climate legislation. But to date, that panel's chairman, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), has taken a far more methodical approach to dealing with global warming.

"It's intended to be another important part of the debate as we move forward with the House and in the negotiations with the House and Senate and with the administration," Markey said. "It's going to be ultimately many different ideas that are competing. I think it's important for us to put together the legislation that reflects the best ideas of what's been heard."

Environmentalists welcomed the legislation for pushing further than the Senate plan and also for going into greater detail on many of the more complicated and contentious items required of a cap-and-trade policy.

"It's a breath of fresh air," said Emily Figdor, a top federal climate analyst at Environment America (formerly known as US-PIRG)

A Dingell spokesman said Markey’s office hasn’t yet provided the committee with a copy of the new climate bill.

Mirrors Senate bill

On many of the bill's more technical details, Markey's plan follows the Senate bill by Lieberman, Warner and Boxer.

It would give industry a break from high compliance costs by meeting up to 15 percent of the program's requirements through the use of domestic offsets, such as methane capture or soil sequestration. Companies also could turn to international climate activities for up to 15 percent of the compliance requirements.

The Markey bill also does not have any "safety valve" provisions, such as an absolute ceiling on the price of an emission allowance. Instead, Markey's ideas for cost containment revolve around letting companies bank away an unlimited amount of their emission credits for future use.

To engage China, India and other developing countries, Markey calls on the president to study other climate plans to determine which have taken comparable actions to the United States. If they meet the president's criteria, Markey would give the countries access to tens of billions of dollars in new technology and deforestation funding.

But Markey's bill also mirrors the Lieberman-Warner-Boxer plan by providing a trade stick. Countries that do not take comparable action by 2020 would need to purchase emission allowances if they want to import their carbon-intensive goods into the United States.

Markey's bill includes several other notable points. It would override the Bush administration's controversial decision last December to deny California's request for a waiver while following that state's lead in setting up a nationwide low carbon fuel standard.

If Markey's proposal became law, all new coal-fired power plants with construction that started after January 2009 would need to capture and store 85 percent of their greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. EPA would need to set up a legal framework for the underground storage of greenhouse gases.

And EPA would be ordered to set mandatory standards for greenhouse gas emitters not covered by the cap, including coal mines, landfills, wastewater treatment systems and large animal feeding operations.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dr. Keith Paustian - Colorado State University

At the Senate briefing I put together last week, Dr. Keith Paustian of Colorado State University presented information on measurement and modeling for soil carbon sequestration. The bottom line is that soil carbon sequestration can be measured accurately and with minimal cost at a national level.

You can view Dr. Paustian's presentation by clicking here.

Ag Carbon Market Potential

Last week I put together a briefing for Senate staff examining the carbon market potential for the agriculture sector. This briefing looks at some of the issues surrounding a mandatory climate change law that would allow a carbon offsets provision. This is one of the key provisions that agriculture should defend in any climate legislation.

You can view the presentation by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ag Offsets Briefing - This Friday - May 16th

I want to let you know about a briefing on agriculture offsets that I'll be participating in this Friday. Details are below. The goal of this briefing is to provide an overview of the science of offsets measurement, market potential, and to hear an agriculture perspective from a group (National Association of Wheat Growers) who have been studying the issue for some time and have taken a true leadership role within the agriculture sector on this issue.


Date: Friday, May 16, 2008

Time: 2-4pm

Place: 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building
(Senate Environment & Public Works Committee Room )


Keith Paustian - Colorado State University soil scientist - The science of soil carbon measurement & modeling

Sara Hessenflow Harper - The Clark Group - The market potential of agriculture offsets

Mark Gaede - National Association of Wheat Growers - The stakes for agriculture in climate legislation

Questions & Answers