Greenpeace Analysis has a Strong Message for President Obama

Feature story - October 20, 2009
In a call-to-action report written to President Obama, Greenpeace details the handouts and loopholes that have undermined the integrity of the current energy and climate legislation. In order for federal climate law worthy of this nation to pass through Congress, we see no alternative to active and principled engagement from the Oval Office.

Greenpeace analyzed the structure of the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act approved by the House of Representatives in June 2009, and now mirrored in the Senate bill, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

This legislation, while designed with good intentions, falls short of what is needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions quickly in the US.  The result is Business As Usual instead of the change of course needed to solve global warming.

These bills are more likely to encourage the perpetuation of a fossil fuel economy 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.

Business As Usual is a plain-spoken Greenpeace analysis of the pending climate legislation. We identify five points of maximum danger in urgent need of Presidential attention. Individually and together these points of danger threaten the integrity of the law and the ability of the United States to resume its place as a respected environmental leader in the world.

FIVE POINTS OF MAXIMUM DANGER:

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 best-equipped agency from regulating greenhouse gases.

The Carbon Cap Has Little Bite

Congress is adopting a misleading 2005 benchmark to make the proposed US carbon cap look significant. Science demands at least a 25 percent emissions reduction target based on the 1990 baseline used by the rest of the world. The weak target of a four percent 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

Dirty 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 Massive

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- two 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 truly clean energy development from state governments and private enterprise already surpasses the weak structure of incentives embedded in pending federal legislation.

Take Action

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.  

Tell President Obama that you are ready for him to show real leadership on global warming.

Read the full analysis