Views on commodities and energy
from Ayesha Rascoe:
A rally in Richmond, Virginia on Thursday was supposed to be a protest against Washington's climate bill. But like the raucous healthcare townhall meetings of recent weeks, there was plenty of anger to go around.
Sponsored by a powerful oil lobby and other business groups, the Energy Citizens Alliance event was a pep rally of sorts to encourage residents to rise against the recently passed House of Representatives climate bill that would limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of the protesters grumbled not only about the issue at hand but the direction of government in general.
"It's a lousy Congress, they're doing nothing," said Ray Oberleitner, a retiree who brought his wife Rita to the event. The couple said they are also worried about the plethora of so-called czars appointed by President Obama -- such as the Health Czar and the Green Jobs Czar -- to oversee issues, calling them dangerous.
Democrats floated big plans to tackle climate change proposals in the U.S. Congress this week but realistically there will be much more hot air — both from industry and politicians — before this bill is turned into law.
The draft legislation, running hundreds of pages, will now be considered by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in coming weeks along with all manner of panels. And, oh yes, the Senate, home of the filibuster, will also get to weigh in.
At the heart of of the legislation is Cap and Trade — a panacea for those who believe greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet to dangerous levels and a boon to those who think the sinking economy makes this the dumbest time to anchor industry with more costs.
“This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman.
Sounds good but Waxman is a Democrat from California, where these ideas are more readily embraced.
Listen to what a guy from Texas thinks: “Tuesday’s cap and trade bill marks a triumph of fear over good sense and science and it couldn’t come at a worse time because it proposes to save the planet by sacrificing the economy,” said Representative Joe Barton, the senior Republican on the energy and commerce panel.
In a cap and trade system, power plants and other industries would need permits for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit. Unused permits could be sold to other companies, but overall emissions would gradually drop.
Under the proposal that uses 2005 as a base year, U.S. carbon emissions would have to be reduced by 20 percent by 2020, 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. Those goals are a tad more aggressive than what President Barack Obama had proposed.
Now let the games begin. Very few seem ready to predict when a climate change bill will pass but most say it won’t be this year — especially if Democrats in Congress decide to give Obama’s health care plans the priority.
So there certainly will be a lot more talk, much of it heated. And one other thing is for certain: each yearly delay will mean the United States, as the world’s largest emitter, will spew another 6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
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Photo Credit: Reuters/Eric Thayer (The Empire State building in New York turned off its lights on March 28 at 8:30 pm local time, joining homes, office towers and landmarks in more than 80 countries that signed up for Earth Hour to raise awareness about climate change); Reuters/Chris Baltimore (An aerial photograph of a power plant in Georgia)