The Little Bill That Could?

Ever since the Waxman Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act or ACESA began congressional hearings this spring, many people have predicted its demise.  Yet the bill which will create a cap and market system in the United States--in preparation for climate discussions early next year in Copenhagen--create a renewable electricity standard and address other climate-related issues has moved steadily forward, first through committee and now to the floor of the House.  Today, President Obama made calls to critical House members whose support is needed to pass the bill. The bill may come to a vote as soon as tomorrow but probably only if Speaker Pelosi and the House leadership believe it has the necessary votes to pass.

This is an important piece of legislation.  As I have argued, this year represents the best chance for passage of a bill to put a price on carbon in many and probably for the forseeable future with a new President in office, Copenhagen coming up next year and with sizable Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.  As the critical moment of truth approaches, proponents are actively working phones, faxes and email to bring support to bear. 

Polls show that Americans support the bill.  Most major environmental organizations support it as well, though some environmentalists wish it were stronger.  As I have argued, however, one cannot expect perfection in landmark regulation of this nature.  Just getting the principle of limiting greenhouse gas emissiosn on the books would be a historic legislative accomplishment.  On the other side, the American Petroleum Institute and some business groups oppose the legislation.  However, the bill includes substantial incentives to explore carbon capture and additional measures to allow coal producing regions to diversify their economies over the long term.

It remains to be seen if the bill will pass, but it has come a long way and--if past is prologue--will go the distance.

Those interested in trying to push the bill across the goal line can find out what groups are doing here.