Business as Usual

Publication - October 20, 2009
A Report to the President on Pending Federal Climate Legislation (ACES & CEJAPA)

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Executive summary:

This report is a call to action written to the President of the United States. In order for federal climate legislation worthy of this nation to pass Congress, we see no alternative to active and principled engagement from the Oval Office.

The climate legislation currently pending in both houses of Congress is more likely to encourage the perpetuation of a fossil fuel economy rather than a swift transition to a clean energy future. Incumbent industry and energy interests have too powerful a hold on members of Congress. They have hijacked the legislation and structured it to serve their own special interests.

In this plain-spoken Greenpeace analysis of the pending climate legislation called Business As Usual, we identify five points of maximum danger in urgent need of Presidential attention. Individually and together these points of danger constitute an existential threat to the integrity of the law and the ability of the United States to resume its place as a respected leader in the world. The five points of maximum danger are:

The Clean Air Act is Being Threatened Congress is threatening to preempt the Clean Air Act from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from the biggest pollution sources in the nation. The EPA already has permitting authority over coal plants to protect the public from mercury poisoning, acid rain, ground level ozone, airborne soot and other health and environmental hazards. Yet lawmakers might exclude the agency, the single arm of the federal government best-equipped to handle oversight of coal-fired power plants, from the opportunity to do its job in relation to greenhouse gases.

The Carbon Cap Has Little Bite Congress is adopting a novel and therefore misleading 2005 benchmark to make the proposed US carbon cap look significant. Science demands at least a 25% emissions reduction target based on the 1990 baseline used by the rest of the world. The weak target of a 4% reduction in the House bill will undermine our ability to negotiate a global deal with China, India and other developing nations.

Coal is Sanctified as “Clean” Energy Choice Coal is the big winner of the legislation, being handed tens of billions of dollars to figure out how to hide its pollution. Renewable and clean technology—wind, solar or geothermal receive scant the same level of federal support.

Handouts and Loopholes are Legion The legislation will create a new form of carbon currency. Instead of auctioning the credits to make polluters pay for pollution, lawmakers are giving away the credits for free, with the lion’s share going to polluters. At the same time, Congress has created an enormous loophole—2 billion tons of offsets— that will effectively postpone the need to reduce US industrial emissions for close to two more decades.

Renewable Energy is Provided Insufficient Support The outcome of the federal support for truly clean renewable energy created by the legislation is less than what would happen if Congress did nothing. Support for clean energy development from state governments and private enterprise already surpasses the weak structure of incentives embedded in pending federal legislation.

If these five points of maximum danger are not addressed, the legislation will succeed in perpetuating business as usual and fail to avert catastrophic climate disruption.

Num. pages: 26

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