House committee passes climate bill as electricity emissions plunge

climatechange1Yesterday, the House Energy & Commerce Committee passed Waxman-Markey’s American Clean Energy & Security (ACES) Act by a 33-25 vote. This passage does not guarantee ultimate passage in the full House or Senate, but gets some positive political momentum behind necessary federal climate action.

ACES Act caps US greenhouse gas emissions

The passed bill would establish a cap-and-trade system to achieve lower US emissions levels by allowing institutions to trade their emissions permits so that the most efficient reduction projects are executed. This market-based incentive is estimated to be cheaper than mandating all institutions to lower emissions the chosen percentage without regard to each institution’s costs. The cap, beginning in 2012, is set for 2020 emissions to equal 17% below 2005 (or ~4% below 1990) and then 2050 emissions at 83% below 2005 (~80% below 1990). The original bill draft called for 20% below 2005 by 2020 but was relaxed as a compromise to shore up support among legislators from coal states.

The sharp drop in emissions during 2008-09 already has emissions at 6% below 2005 levels, so 17% below seems unaggressive to me. I hope advances in solar, wind, and efficiency help persuade legislators to lower the cap at least back to 20% below 2005 during the bill’s continued development or after it becomes law.

Electricity Emissions Continuing to Plunge

The EIA just published its preliminary estimate for March electricity generation, and the numbers are even more climate-friendly than last month. The most notable change is the large substitution from coal to natural gas due to the recent lower prices for natural gas. Coal use fell 14.5% from March 2008 while natural gas consumption increased 5%. More good news for the climate were a 1.2% increase in hydroelectric power generation, a .3% increase for nuclear, and a 4.8% decrease for petroleum liquids.

Year-to-date, 2009 coal consumption for electricity is down a whopping 10.2% (much more than the EIA projection of ~2.5%, as I wrote last week would probably occur). Natural gas use for electricity has fallen .8%. US emissions could fall as much as 5% in 2009 (to 7.5% below 2005 levels) if current trends continue. But for now, I’ll stick with the more conservative projection that they will fall more than 3%.

Here’s to swift passage of climate legislation to ensure emissions continue falling during our economic recovery in the 2010s.

Onwards in the Sustainable Energy Transition-

2 thoughts on “House committee passes climate bill as electricity emissions plunge

  1. Sean Caye

    1sky seems cautiously optimistic. The bill looks good but the usual suspects are throwing a lot of money at Washington to get it watered down, it seems. Lets hope a weighted congress and popular support help it get through relatively unscathed.

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