Opinion

The Great Debate

California voters back weakened climate law

-The opinions are the author’s own-

California voters on Tuesday rejected a measure to suspend the state’s innovative climate change law. But the state’s emission trading scheme has been substantially diluted to buy off opposition from energy-intensive industries and allay fears about job losses.

If it is true that “as California goes, so goes the nation”, the past 10 days have confirmed the lack of political support for tough emissions curbs.

The survival of California’s cap-and-trade scheme has kept alive hopes for enacting a patchwork of state and regional schemes in the absence of a federal program. Supporters hope establishing even a diluted system will lay the groundwork for a program that can be toughened as the economy improves.

But the state government’s last-minute decision to give away most emissions allowances rather than auction them suggests voters and politicians are not ready to embrace the steep increase in energy prices needed to decarbonize the economy.

“NO” ON 23
Proposition 23 would have suspended the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) until the state unemployment rate fell below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. Proposition 23 would have effectively killed the law because unemployment is currently over 12 percent and has only rarely dipped below 5.5 percent in the last three decades.

States see pushback against carbon trading

CHINA-POLLUTION/

– John Kemp is a Reuters market analyst. The views expressed are his own —

Efforts to implement cap-and-trade programs at state level are faltering, just as policymakers in Washington are struggling to generate enough support to put in place a comprehensive national system.

Recent setbacks in California and Arizona point to growing headwinds against the policy. As cap-and-trade loses momentum and becomes embroiled in bigger political disputes about the size and role of government, opponents are becoming emboldened to try to block the policy completely.

Emissions bill overhauled to secure votes

WEATHER/

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Prominent U.S. senators are set to substantially re-write climate legislation in a bid to secure the 60 votes needed for passage before Congress is engulfed by the mid-term election campaign.

According to well-sourced media reports that emerged at the weekend from conversations with aides engaged in the process:

Emissions prices in 2020


kemp

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

Uncertainty about the future cost of emissions allowances for greenhouse gases is one of the biggest obstacles to winning consent for a cap and trade or cap and refund programme in the U.S. Congress. To have any realistic prospect of passing emissions legislation, lawmakers must find a way to reduce it.
Proponents argue a trading programme would ensure emissions reductions are achieved in the most cost-effective manner. They point to the success of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Acid Rain Program in cutting sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions much more quickly and at a fraction of the expected costs during the 1990s.

Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) 1990 established a trading programme for SO2 emissions from power plants. Phase I, beginning in 1995, covered the 110 dirtiest coal-fired electricity generating facilities.

California tilts towards cap and refund


kemp

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

California is set to auction all or almost all allowances under its emissions trading programme, and rebate up to 75 percent of the proceeds to households through a lump sum payment or reductions in income and sales taxes.
The proposals, contained in a draft recommendation from the Economic and Allocation Advisory Committee (EAAC) to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), are in sharp contrast to the proposed federal programme, stalled in Congress, which would give away most permits to utilities and other energy intensive industries.
Since California’s proposed programme is one of the most advanced, and would be the largest and most comprehensive in the country, with links to other states through the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the decision gives significant impetus to proponents of the cap and refund approach, now emerging as a credible alternative in Congress.
ADVISORY COMMITTEE MANDATE

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act 2006 (AB 32) requires the state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. CARB has developed a “Scoping Plan” detailing how the state will achieve this using a mix of direct regulations and an over-arching cap and trade programme.
In May 2009, CARB established an Advisory Committee, consisting of technical experts, to make recommendations on two key elements: (a) how to put allowances into circulation (via auctions, free distributions, or some combination of the two); and (b) how to allocate free allowances or the revenues from permit auctions.

Massachusetts election kills cap-and-trade

- John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own -

The Republican Party’s stunning special election victory in deep-blue Massachusetts has killed any lingering prospect of passing cap-and-trade legislation in 2010, and with it international negotiations to produce a binding climate accord before the end of the year.

With no chance of U.S. action in the short term, emerging markets such as China and India are under no pressure to accept mandatory emissions reduction targets. If climate legislation is eventually revived in the United States, in 2011 or beyond, it may come back in the form of a carbon tax rather than a permit trading program.

TO RETREAT OR REINFORCE?
Perhaps the most important decision any general has to make is when to stand and fight, and when to beat a retreat in order to fight another day. The Massachusetts special election to fill the Senate seat left open by the death of Edward Kennedy confronts President Barack Obama with a similar strategic choice.

Senate retirements narrow cap-trade window

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

kemp
LONDON – Yesterday’s announcement by Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat, North Dakota) that he would not seek a fourth term in November, coupled with today’s expected announcement by Senator Chris Dodd (Democrat, Connecticut) that he won’t seek a sixth term, will remove two veterans, once secure legislators from the Democratic caucus.
It highlights the mounting problems confronting congressional Democrats facing voters in November’s midterms amid high unemployment, a relatively unpopular agenda led by the administration, and concerns about the party’s capture by special interests.

Dodd’s retirement is not surprising, given his plummeting poll numbers and criticism for being too close to the banking and insurance industries he regulates as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee but which have been major campaign contributors.

Cost of cap-and-trade for U.S. households

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

How much are U.S. households prepared to pay to avert the threat of climate change? According to the latest polling data published by the Washington Post, the answer is not very much, probably not much more than $25 per month or $300 per year.

Most respondents (65 percent) believe the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories, including those who believe this strongly (50 percent) or somewhat (15 percent). Only a minority think the government should not regulate them (29 percent).

Defeats doom climate bill in ’09

John Kemp– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Resounding defeats for Democratic Party gubernatorial candidates in Virginia and New Jersey on November 3 have killed any lingering hope Congress will enact climate change legislation this year, and may doom the prospect of passing a cap-and-trade bill this side of the 2010 mid-term elections.

Prospects for eventually passing legislation may now depend on winning Republican support with nuclear loan guarantees and more offshore drilling.

from James Pethokoukis:

3 reasons why cap-and-trade is in trouble

The man who will almost certainly become Japan's next prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, is promising to cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020.

That is a far more ambitious target that can be found in the legislation currently making its way through Congress. The cap-and-trade bill passed by the House of Representatives would trim U.S. emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels. That translates to around a 6 percent cut from 1990 levels.

But even that lesser reduction seems unlikely to happen anytime soon. Climate change legislation faces a tough road in the Senate, and it may get pushed back to 2010 or beyond.

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