Friday, June 26, 2009

Climate Change Vote in the House Today




Climate Change Debate Rages on the Hill

Washington--The U.S. House is expected to vote today on climate change legislation that is a high priority of President Barack Obama. If the legislation passes the House, it could find a rocky road in the Senate, where the bill faces tough opposition, and opposition from the nation's largest Farm Organization.

“Climate change legislation working its way to a vote on the House floor this week continues to be seriously flawed. The bill’s provisions and omissions are very problematic for U.S. agriculture, our national economy and domestic energy security," said American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman.

"Even after the stellar efforts of House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson and many rural members of Congress to win vital changes for America’s farm and ranch families – efforts that we strongly endorse and support – there are simply too many flaws in the underlying bill," added Stallman.

“Despite inclusion of Chairman Peterson’s hard-fought provisions to reward farmers for carbon offsets and to remove the phony indirect-land-use calculation, this bill should be amended further or defeated," added Stallman.

Here are main details of the House legislation, which has undergone changes since being approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in late May:

* The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated an average cost of $175 annually for households. It said the poor would get a $40-a-year benefit from rebates and other aid.
* New protections for agriculture are included to win the support of farm-state lawmakers. Among them: Department of Agriculture oversight of carbon-reduction efforts by farmers, instead of the Environmental Protection Agency; obstacles to corn-based ethanol that EPA had proposed would be put off for at least five years and probably longer; some rural electric utilities would get free pollution permits from the government.
* U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases would be reduced 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels.

* Under "cap and trade," fewer and fewer pollution permits would be available to companies over the next several decades. Also, companies that pollute less than their limit could sell some of their permits to others struggling to meet environmental requirements.
* Utilities would have to generate 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind or solar power and show a 5 percent gain in energy efficiency by 2020. Governors could lower the 15 percent target to 12 percent with 8 percent efficiency gains if they determine the national goals are unattainable for their states.
* Obama's February budget envisioned $646 billion in revenue from the sale of the permits between 2012 and 2019. But that assumed a 100 percent auction of emissions permits, far from the level the House bill requires.
* Companies could offset up to 2 billion tons of their emissions annually by paying for "green" projects in the United States and other countries, such as preserving tropical rain forests.

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