Senate Moving Forward on Climate

 This has been a busy week for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.  Hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733) began on Tuesday and by the end of the day today, EPW will have heard from over 50 witnesses on 10 panels. I will be testifying later this afternoon on S. 1733 and the potential for a  clean energy future.  Here are a few highlights.

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act will put America on the path to clean energy. This path will lead to a growing economy with more jobs created here and fewer dollars shipped overseas to chase increasingly insecure supplies of dirty energy.  We will also harness America's enormous talent in business, labor and our wealth of resources to shape our future and not just cope with it. 

We must act now to begin making serious emission reductions if we are to avoid truly dangerous levels of global warming pollution. Climate scientists warn us that we face extreme dangers if global average temperatures are allowed to increase by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit from today's levels (equivalent to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels). 

The policy framework contained in S. 1733 is overdue. The International Energy Agency estimates that each year of delay in tackling the threat of climate change will cost the global economy about one-half a trillion dollars annually.  We cannot regain those lost years but we can avoid losing more time by acting now. 

S. 1733 sets long-term limits that are consistent with the science, reaching a 42 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2030 and an 83 percent reduction by 2050, from 2005 levels. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency the average per household cost of  S. 1733 would be less than $120 per year. NRDC's research shows that under the House bill American households will save $6 per month on their electricity bills in 2020.  Similarly, EPA's analysis of the House bill found that household energy expenditures would decrease 7% in 2020.  Meanwhile, NRDC's analysis found that the cost of owning and driving a vehicle will decline by $14 per month.  EPA's analysis of S.1733 concluded that household costs would be very similar to those under the House bill.

Both the House bill and S. 1733 will create more jobs -- a net increase of as many as 1.9 million jobs with effective policies to capture available cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities. These savings and job numbers are detailed on a state-by-state basis in the maps appended to this testimony.

S. 1733 and the House bill contain a large biomass loophole in carbon accounting by ignoring the global warming emissions related to biomass production and combustion when determining if the bills' emissions caps are met.  The loophole could dramatically diminish the emission reductions achieved by these bills, undermining actual reductions in 2020 achieved by capped sources by as much as 6 percentage points. Getting the accounting wrong means that more CO2 is going into the air than is being acknowledged; and that worsens global warming.  The atmosphere doesn't care if CO2 comes from burning coal, burning trees, or grasslands plowed up because of expanded biofuels production.

The common sense solution is to close the loophole now by ensuring that covered entities that burn or process biomass report the full net carbon impacts of that fuel, capturing net emissions reduction benefits from the most sound biomass sources and accounting for emissions increases associated with other types of biomass. 

Time is short and the Congressional calendar is crowded but make no mistake, we are moving forward. Swift action on a bill to secure a beneficial economic, energy and climate future is critical.