Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hot, Wet, Crowded, and Is It Too Late?

US House of Representatives passed the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act. This bill has been the corner stone of Obama’s campaign and if accepted by the Senate as-is, should revitalize US economy by creating millions of new jobs, increase national security by reducing its dependence on foreign oil, and preserve the planet by reducing the pollution that causes global warming.

The bill contains the following key provisions:

• Requires electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.

• Invests $190 billion in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).

• Mandates new energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry.

• Reduces carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Complementary measures in the legislation, such as investments in preventing tropical deforestation, will achieve significant additional reductions in carbon emissions.

• Protects consumers from energy price increases. According to recent analyses from the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation will cost each household less than 50 cents per day in 2020 (not including energy efficiency savings).

US is trying to catch up to the world, particularly Europe in curbing carbon emissions. Later this year, US is expected to support the follow-on to the Kyoto protocol to be debated in Copenhagen. According to an Economist article “Hot, wet and costly” officials in America and Britain report on how a changing climate could batter their countries and face dramatic and painful changes. Although this bill is far from perfect—critics point out that too many credits, some 85%, are likely to be issued free to polluters—but even its passage is being hampered by representatives from states with large coal industries. Opponents of the bill also claim that it would impose greater costs for consumers. Passage through the Senate is expected to be even harder to achieve. In this context, the publication of reports by scientists who set out some of the costs of inaction on climate is more necessary than ever.