Obama's Climate Bill May Make Things Worse

Tikkun Magazine
Monday, June 29 2009

Rep. Dennis Kucinich explains why he voted against the
climate bill that narrowly passed the House Friday: "It
sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short
term, and sets about meeting those targets through
Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to
one of the primary sources of the problem that should
be on its way out-coal-by giving it record subsidies."

Kucinich Says Climate Bill Might Make Things Worse

Posted on Jun 27, 2009

Statement From Rep. Dennis Kucinich:

"I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and
Security Act of 2009. The reason is simple. It won't
address the problem. In fact, it might make the
problem worse.

"It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the
short term, and sets about meeting those targets
through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new
life to one of the primary sources of the problem that
should be on its way out- coal - by giving it record
subsidies. And it is rounded out with massive
corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense. There is $60
billion for a single technology which may or may not
work, but which enables coal power plants to keep
warming the planet at least another 20 years.

"Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will
fail. Science tells us that immediately is not soon
enough to begin repairing the planet. Waiting another
decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic
levels of warming. But the bill does not require any
greenhouse gas reductions beyond current levels until

"Today's bill is a fragile compromise, which leads some
to claim that we cannot do better. I respectfully
submit that not only can we do better; we have no
choice but to do better. Indeed, if we pass a bill
that only creates the illusion of addressing the
problem, we walk away with only an illusion. The price
for that illusion is the opportunity to take
substantive action.

"There are several aspects of the bill that are

1. Overall targets are too weak. The bill is
predicated on a target atmospheric concentration of 450
parts per million, a target that is arguably justified
in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change, but which is already out of date.
Recent science suggests 350 parts per million is
necessary to help us avoid the worst effects of global

2. The offsets undercut the emission reductions.
Offsets allow polluters to keep polluting; they are
rife with fraudulent claims of emissions reduction;
they create environmental, social, and economic
unintended adverse consequences; and they codify and
endorse the idea that polluters do not have to make
sacrifices to solve the problem.

3. It kicks the can down the road. By requiring the
bulk of the emissions to be carried out in the long
term and requiring few reductions in the short term, we
are not only failing to take the action when it is
needed to address rapid global warming, but we are
assuming the long term targets will remain intact.

4. EPA's authority to help reduce greenhouse gas
emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded. It
is our best defense against a new generation of coal
power plants. There is no room for coal as a major
energy source in a future with a stable climate.

5. Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead of
phasing it out. Nuclear power is far more expensive,
has major safety issues including a near release in my
own home state in 2002, and there is still no
resolution to the waste problem. A recent study by Dr.
Mark Cooper showed that it would cost $1.9 trillion to
$4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear
reactors than to generate the same amount of
electricity from energy efficiency and renewables.

6. Dirty Coal is given a lifeline instead of phasing
it out. Coal-based energy destroys entire mountains,
kills and injures workers at higher rates than most
other occupations, decimates ecologically sensitive
wetlands and streams, creates ponds of ash that are so
toxic the Department of Homeland Security will not
disclose their locations for fear of their potential to
become a terrorist weapon, and fouls the air and water
with sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates,
mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and
thousands of other toxic compounds that cause asthma,
birth defects, learning disabilities, and pulmonary and
cardiac problems for starters. In contrast, several
times more jobs are yielded by renewable energy
investments than comparable coal investments.

7. The $60 billion allocated for Carbon Capture and
Sequestration (CCS) is triple the amount of money for
basic research and development in the bill. We should
be pressuring China, India and Russia to slow and stop
their power plants now instead of enabling their
perpetuation. We cannot create that pressure while
spending unprecedented amounts on a single technology
that may or may not work. If it does not work on the
necessary scale, we have then spent 10-20 years
emitting more CO2, which we cannot afford to do. In
addition, those who will profit from the technology
will not be viable or able to stem any leaks from CCS
facilities that may occur 50, 100, or 1000 years from

8. Carbon markets can and will be manipulated using
the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us
the financial crisis.

9. It is regressive. Free allocations doled out
with the intent of blunting the effects on those of
modest means will pale in comparison to the allocations
that go to polluters and special interests. The
financial benefits of offsets and unlimited banking
also tend to accrue to large corporations. And of
course, the trillion dollar carbon derivatives market
will help Wall Street investors. Much of the benefits
designed to assist consumers are passed through coal
companies and other large corporations, on whom we will
rely to pass on the savings.

10. The Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) is not an
improvement. The 15% RES standard would be achieved
even if we failed to act.

11. Dirty energy options qualify as "renewable": The
bill allows polluting industries to qualify as
"renewable energy." Trash incinerators not only emit
greenhouse gases, but also emit highly toxic
substances. These plants disproportionately expose
communities of color and low-income to the toxics.
Biomass burners that allow the use of trees as a fuel
source are also defined as "renewable." Under the bill,
neither source of greenhouse gas emissions is counted
as contributing to global warming.

12. It undermines our bargaining position in
international negotiations in Copenhagen and beyond. As
the biggest per capita polluter, we have a
responsibility to take action that is
disproportionately stronger than the actions of other
countries. It is, in fact, the best way to preserve
credibility in the international context.

13. International assistance is much less than
demanded by developing countries. Given the level of
climate change that is already in the pipeline, we are
going to need to devote major resources toward
adaptation. Developing countries will need it the
most, which is why they are calling for much more
resources for adaptation and technology transfer than
is allocated in this bill. This will also undercut our
position in Copenhagen.

"I offered eight amendments and cosponsored two more
that collectively would have turned the bill into an
acceptable starting point. All amendments were not
allowed to be offered to the full House. Three
amendments endeavored to minimize the damage that will
be done by offsets, a method of achieving greenhouse
gas reductions that has already racked up a history of
failure to reduce emissions - increasing emissions in
some cases - while displacing people in developing
countries who rely on the land for their well being.

"Three other amendments would have made the federal
government a force for change by requiring all federal
energy to eventually come from renewable resources, by
requiring the federal government to transition to
electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and by requiring the
installation of solar panels on government rooftops and
parking lots. These provisions would accelerate the
transition to a green economy.

"Another amendment would have moved up the year by
which reductions of greenhouse gas emissions were
required from 2030 to 2025. It would have encouraged
the efficient use of allowances and would have reduced
opportunities for speculation by reducing the emission
value of an allowance by a third each year.

"The last amendment would have removed trash
incineration from the definition of renewable energy.
Trash incineration is one of the primary sources of
environmental injustice in the country. It a primary
source of compounds in the air known to cause cancer,
asthma, and other chronic diseases. These facilities
are disproportionately sited in communities of color
and communities of low income. Furthermore,
incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per unit of
electricity produced than coal-fired power plants.

"Passing a weak bill today gives us weak environmental
policy tomorrow," said Kucinich.