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The American Clean Air And Security Act: What Is It?

At the time of this post, The American Clean Air and Security Act has passed Congress as Waxman-Markey. It will now go to the Senate. Supporter and opponents are divided over its efficacy. It is full of compromises needed to pass, but will these compromises make it ineffective?

These is something in this bill for almost everyone. There is also something for almost everyone to hate. Alan During gives 14 things he love and 6 he hates about Waxman-Markey.

It’s no surprise that the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufactures oppose this bill, but so does Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Dow Chemical and Ford Motors support it.

One of Greenpeace’s objections is that this bill will move some “offsets” from EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to the Department of Agriculture. Essentially, such “offsets” are waivers. For example, EPA will not be able to consider the “indirect” greenhouse gas emissions produced by growing corn on marginal land to produce ethanol.

Production of corn ethanol puts more CO2 into the atmosphere than fossil fuels. The 2007 Energy Bill contained a similar provision that allowed 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol into the nations fuel with a full exemption from a lifecycle analysis of CO2 emissions. Yes, there is something in this bill for the farm lobby.

This bill will introduce a cap-and-trade system. A cap is a limit on the amount of pollutants that an energy producer can emit. To exceed that limit, the producer must buy a permit from those that have not reached their cap.

Permits will be traded on an open market. The price of these permits will create incentives to reduce carbon output.

Many environmentalist criticize this bill because it initially gives away most of these permits. Eventually Waxman-Markey increases the amount auctioned and reduces the caps.

In 2015 only 0.82 billion out of 5 billion will be auctioned (16.4%). By 2035, 1.98 billion out of 2.9 billion will be auctioned (69.3%). The caps grow tighter pushing up permit prices to increase motivation on industry to lower carbon emission.

The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimates that the net annual cost of this cap-and-trade will be $22 billion in 2020 or about $175 per household. This estimate does not include the energy efficiency programs built into this bill that will certainly make this a net gain.

The “security” part of this bill is there to appease hawks and economic isolationists. It’s also part of the “energy independence” myth. This certainly isn’t the first or last attempt to restrict trade in the name of national defense. Energy is a world problem and opportunity. In December the US will go to Copenhagen for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Changes

Greenpeace is pessimistic about the impact of this bill on world opinion. “This legislation sends an unmistakable signal to the world that the United States is not yet ready to show the leadership necessary to reach a strong agreement at Copenhagen in December.”


Waxman-Markey is what we got. It narrowly passed Congress only with lots of horse-trading. At the time of this post, it is headed for the Senate. It’s a start.

Photo Credit: US Gov. EPA Permit. 




Written by Fred Etcheverry

Fred Etcheverry lives in Santa Cruz, California with his wife Elsa. He is a freelance high-tech B2B (Business-to-Business) copywriter usually for clients in the nearby Silicon Valley. He is also an engineering consultant and teaches courses in industry and college on computers and electronics. When he is doing none of the above, he swims in the Monterey Bay, hikes in the Santa Cruz redwood forests, visits his adult children, or goes to art galleries, plays and operas with Elsa and friends.


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