After 37 hours, 94 amendments, and a veritable torrent of partisan barbs, jabs, swipes, and blows, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Thursday approved H.R. 2454, "The American Clean Energy and Security Act," by a near party-line vote of 33 to 25. Championed by Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D. CA), the bill proposes a sweeping climate and energy regulatory strategy. The Committee’s approval significantly bolsters the prospects that the government will soon put a price tag on carbon. The bill aims to cut emissions by roughly 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and roughly 80% below by mid-century. The measure proposes a cap-and-trade system, in which the government would set caps on emissions, issue permits allowing companies to pollute consistent with those limits, and let companies trade the permits among themselves. Initially, 85% of permits would be given away free, with the bulk of them going to utilities, automakers, oil refiners, and trade-sensitive industries. The rest would be auctioned off, at a minimum initial price of $10 per ton of emissions. The measure also contains a mechanism aimed at holding down the maximum price of permits, by allowing the government to issue a limited number of additional permits if the price hits $28 per ton in the first year of the program. The legislation also would require utilities to obtain a significant portion of their electricity from renewable sources -- 6% by 2012 and 20% by 2020, though utilities could claim credit for energy efficiency to offset part of that requirement. The Committee posted the following link that describes the bill and offers daily summaries of the historic mark-up process.
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