Summary and implications

The American Clean Energy and Security Act otherwise known as the Waxman-Marky Bill (the "Bill") made history as it was passed by the US House of Representatives. The Bill is the first legislation of its kind in the U.S. that tackles climate change: To read the Bill,

  • And is expected to create many new clean energy jobs, save consumers hundreds of billions of dollars in energy costs, improve and carve out America's energy independence, and reduce global warming pollution.
  • However, there are those who feel that the initial aims of the Bill have been compromised. The emissions and renewable energy targets have been compromised meaning that greenhouse gases will not be reduced sufficiently. Whether the Bill proves to be effective will become apparent over time through the targets that it has set.
  • The passage of the Bill through the US Senate is really important if the U.S. hopes to follow the UK's lead in promoting the ratification of a global climate change treaty later this year in Copenhagen.

The Bill

The Bill is referred to by many as a type of 'cap and trade plan' which is sometimes known as emission trading. This involves economic initiatives to reduce the emissions of pollutants.

The main elements of the Bill are to promote clean energy; to increase energy efficiency; to reduce global warming pollution; and encourage a transition to a clean economy.

Clean Energy

The Bill aims to create a nationwide renewable electricity standard. It is reported that 6% of electricity will be produced from renewable electricity by 2012 which will increase to 20% by 2020.

The Bill will allocate $190 billion US dollars towards funding a range of clean energy technologies with an estimated $90 billion being applied to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs and a further $20 billion for basic research and development into clean energy technologies. Further money will be allocated to the modernization of the electrical grid in order to accommodate the growth of the renewable electricity.

Energy Efficiency

The Bill provides that by 2012 all new buildings need to be 30% more energy efficient with this increasing to 50% by 2016. The Bill also makes it compulsory for all lighting products and appliances to reach a compulsory energy efficiency standard.

Reducing Global Warming Pollution

The Bill has proposed a 17% reduction in 2005 emission levels by 2020 and an 80% reduction in emission levels by 2050. The Bill also goes on to make provisions for its 'cap and trade plan' by allocating 85% to industry sectors for free and allocating the remaining 15% to auction. The auction percentage will gradually increase over time.

Transitioning to a Clean Energy Economy

The Bill makes detailed provisions to accommodate the cost of the 'cap and trade plan', as well as penalties for those who fail to comply with the emissions cap. Furthermore, the Bill goes on to set out regulation for trading in allowances.

Opinions on the Bill

There are those, such as industrial lobbyists, who do not support the bill. There are also those who support the Bill such as the 11 professionals in the environment and energy industries who provided their view for Yale Environment 360. These views are summarised below.

Against the Bill

U.S. industries burn a great deal of fossil fuel. These same industries in turn help to drive the U.S. economy. This Bill will have a huge effect on the economy and is therefore viewed by many industrialists to be highly controversial with many not lending their support to it. Their opposition has lead to the Bill becoming diluted so that it could pass through the House of Representatives. Those in opposition go on to argue that the Bill will do little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It has also been reported that some feel that the Bill should be thrown out and drafted again in order to push through a stronger Bill. Finally, many claim that it is erroneous to begin capping carbon emissions at a time when the US, as with many countries, is still feeling the effects of the recession.

For the Bill

Even those who support the Bill are concerned at the compromises that have been made in order to pass the bill through the House of Representatives with only a majority of seven. However, those in support of the Bill believe in what it represents and seeks to achieve, even in diluted form. Many have stated that tougher amendments could be proposed in the future should the Bill prove to be too weak. Furthermore, if the US wants to join with the UK in leading the call to ratify the global climate change treaty in Copenhagen at the Climate Change Conference in December this year then this Bill must be passed.

Conclusion

In spite of some concern that the Bill is weaker than originally proposed, it will increase the production of renewable energy and create more 'green energy jobs'. It will also help the US to promote the manufacturing and sale of clean air technologies, reduce the threat of global warming, and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The Bill goes on to place an emphasis on the concept of the 'polluter pays' and encourages more research into cleaner energy technologies. Importantly it also sets up a 'Green Curriculum' and will create many new 'Green Jobs'.

The US must pass this Bill through Senate should it wish to throw its support behind the international climate change treaty that will be promoted in Copenhagen at the Climate Change Conference in December this year. How the Bill fairs through Senate remains to be seen particularly in light of the compromises that had to be made for it to pass the House of Representatives.