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June 30, 2009

House Passes Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Bill
    by Robert Kropp

American Clean Energy and Security Act seeks to reduce US dependence on oil, invest in clean energy technologies, and reduce carbon emissions. -- On June 26, the US House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, commonly referred to as the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Bill, by a vote of 219 to 212. The bill now goes to the Senate for final passage, where Republican Senators are attacking the bill as a form of taxation that will pass intolerable costs to American taxpayers.

Based on its review of the Act, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that "enacting the legislation would increase revenues by $873 billion over the 2010-2019 period and would increase direct spending by $864 billion over that 10-year period." Furthermore, the CBO estimates an increase of $175 a year in energy costs to the average American household.

The key provisions of the bill include requiring electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020, investing $190 billion in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, mandating new energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry, introducing a federal cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels, and protecting consumers from energy price increases.

Even supporters of the bill have acknowledged that its aims may be too modest to effectively combat climate change. And Greenpeace, the environmental organization, urged the House to reject the bill, claiming that "the Waxman-Markey bill sets emission reduction targets far lower than science demands, then undermines even those targets with massive offsets."

Companies that purchase carbon offsets help neutralize emissions produced by their operations by supporting external emissions reduction initiatives.

Among the Republican opponents of the bill in the House was Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who asserted that "human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated by the scientific community."

But President Obama praised the House passage of the bill, which he called "a historic piece of legislation that will open the door to a clean energy economy."

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