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Climate News of the Weird

Posted 10.01.2009

What a couple of months it’s been in the world of climate change. First, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Vice President William Kovacs said the science behind climate change should face scrutiny similar to that of the Scopes Monkey Trial (creationism v. evolution). Then, utility giant PG&E Corp. dropped its membership in the U.S. Chamber.

“There was a characterization by a senior vice president in charge of environmental regulatory and other matters, public affairs matters, that what the chamber wanted to do was establish the monkey trials of the 21st century and really put climate change on trial, at least the endangerment provision,” PG&E President and CEO Peter Darbee told E&E TV. “And we thought that that was extreme language, certainly not language that we at PG&E were comfortable with.”

Yesterday, I learned about an “organization” calling itself “C02 is Green” and, according to The Guardian, is made up of executives from the oil, gas and coal industry. This group is responsible for a campaign stressing that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

Worth mentioning is that in August, a House committee launched an investigation of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) and its lobbying firm in regard to forged letters from senior citizen groups urging lawmakers not to “vote to force cost increases on us” via associated climate legislation.

Said the ACCCE: “We are outraged at the conduct of Bonner and Associates. Bonner and Associates was hired by the Hawthorn Group – our primary grassroots contractor – to do limited outreach earlier this year on H.R. 2454. Based upon the information we have, it is clear that an employee of Bonner’s firm failed to demonstrate the integrity we demand of all our contractors and subcontractors. As a result, these egregious actions led to falsified letters being sent to Members of Congress. ”

Then ACCCE released this campaign.

Finally, a draft of a Senate Climate Bill, authored by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), made its debut in the last week of September. After reviewing synopses by The Washington Post and E&E, I’ve compiled some highlights of the legislation:
•    It differs slightly from the Waxman-Markey climate bill (which remarkably made its way through the House in June) by calling for a national 20 percent drop in carbon emissions over 2005 levels by 2020, instead of by the House’s 17 percent by 2020 goal.
•    Both Senate and House bills propose 42 percent reductions by 2030 and 83 percent reductions by 2050.
•    The Senate bill has a provision for a “carbon collar” that would prevent the price of allowances from exceeding $28 per ton.

The Senate bill also retains the EPA’s authority to regulate large sources of greenhouse gases (GHG). As outlined in The Washington Post article, this is something that’s off-putting to the U.S. Chamber. In defending the U.S. Chamber in the flurry of PR following PG&E’s resignation, its President and CEO Tom Donohue said, “Some in the environmental movement claim that, because of our opposition to a specific bill or approach, we must be opposed to all efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, or that we deny the existence of any problem. They are dead wrong.”

If the U.S. Chamber supports the reduction of greenhouse gases why not support EPA’s regulatory authority of GHG’s? Climate legislation of any substance may never go anywhere anytime soon. Would the EPA’s regulatory authority of GHG’s remain, a carbon regulation safety net of sorts, regardless of climate legislation?

“On the same day that Senators Kerry and Boxer introduce a massive new energy tax, which even members of their own party don’t support, the administration is quietly moving to impose a backdoor energy tax through EPA,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Senator Boxer plans to release a chairman’s markup of the climate bill in mid-October, with additional revisions before it hits the Senate debate floor this Fall.

What, if anything, will the U.S. have the fortitude to put in the legislative can in the 10 weeks between now and Copenhagen? When asked this week if he thought anything would pass before the international climate talks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said “Yup.”

It’ll happen. And C02 is green.