A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest
FCNL Myth Busters tackle Climate Bill Approved by the HouseBy a vote of 219 to 212, the House of Representatives in late June approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). We at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quakers) worked for several months to strengthen the American Clean Energy and Security Act to ensure that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will be cut quickly, deeply, and effectively. Unfortunately, the bill passed by the House was so weakened by offsets, allowances to polluters, and other concessions that it may not even begin to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels for well over a decade.
Myth: ACES requires reductions in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels by 2020.
Truth: One major goal of the legislation is to reduce fossil fuel emissions. But loopholes in ACES allow U.S. fossil fuel emissions to continue to increase well past 2020. The bill's "offset" and "banking" provisions allow industry to buy cheap coupons to pollute at levels above the cap, thus making it a cap in name only. The scientific consensus says that any meaningful effort to address harmful climate change must include guaranteed reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by developed countries of at least 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2020. This bill does not come close to that minimum requirement.
Myth: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will help curb greenhouse gases if the cap and trade system doesn’t work as expected.
Truth: ACES completely strips EPA of authority to regulate greenhouse gases on the basis of their effect on climate change.
Myth: The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) will require utilities to increase the percentage of electricity they generate from wind, solar and other renewable resources.
Truth: According to analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists and others, the RES standard in this bill will not add more renewable-generated electricity to the national mix than the states will do on their own under existing programs.
Myth: By giving pollution allowances to electricity utilities this legislation contains an effective way to ensure that consumers will not pay more for electricity under this bill.
Truth: The price of using carbon-based fuels like coal will necessarily go up under almost any effort to reduce harmful climate change. We at FCNL support efforts to provide financial relief to low and middle-income consumers affected by rising energy prices. But this bill provides this relief in a very problematic way. ACES has provisions that distribute money in the form of free pollution allowances to utility companies which are significantly more beneficial to upper income households than lower income households, as compared to a per capita dividend.
The group Resources for the Future estimates that this legislation will cost consumers more as a whole than if the same money was paid directly back to the consumers rather than through utilities. In addition, keeping electricity prices artificially low will reduce the consumer incentive to reduce consumption.
Myth: ACES isn’t perfect, but it’s a good first step toward addressing climate change. With support from the public, Congress can strengthen this legislation in coming years.
Truth: If this legislation becomes law, it will be very difficult to go back later and make it more effective. The legislation passed by the House creates new constituencies in the old fossil fuel industries and electric utilities who now will benefit from receiving hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue from the giveaways in this bill. This legislation will leave Congress and the American public under the illusion that the U.S. is addressing climate change while doing virtually nothing to limit U.S. greenhouse gas emissions for more than 15 years.
Myth: ACES comes very close to achieving the goal of the scientific community to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below the levels of 1990 by 2050.
Truth: The drafters of this legislation, Chairmen Henry Waxman (CA) and Ed Markey (MA), intended this legislation to achieve that goal. But loopholes and weakening amendments added in the committee process and negotiations on the House floor have resulted in legislation that does not even guarantee real reductions in U.S. fossil fuel emissions for more than a decade. At the same time, the legislation transfers hundreds of billions of dollars from consumers to fossil fuel companies and electric utilities without requiring them to take the necessary steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to science-based levels.