Climate bill followup: Sander’s bill better? Jury still out.
I’m in the process of playing catch-up with the climate legislation moving (or stalling, as the case may be) around Congress. I think I might have been wrong to identify Lieberman’s S.280 as the leading climate bill in the Senate. Turns out Bernie Sanders’ alternative bill, S.309, has close to twice as many co-sponsors (19) vs. Lieberman’s 11–including Senators Clinton, Obama, Dodd, and Biden, a clean-sweep of the Senate’s presidential hopefuls. Oh wait–politics sure is messy–Clinton and Obama are also cosponsors of the Lieberman bill. Covering their bases, it seems. In Lieberman’s favor, his cosponsors include a bunch of Republicans, so while he has fewer cosponsors, that indication of “bipartisanship” might mean his bill would do better in a full Senate vote. Maybe so, maybe not.
I’ve only skimmed the Sanders’ bill so far, but frankly I’m finding it rather confusing. Well, maybe not confusing, but overly vague. (That’s something Lieberman’s has less of; it proudly wears the badge of corporate welfare on its sleeve.) The heart of it seems to be with Section 704 (f) (2), where it directs the EPA Administrator to establish a market-based program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The vagueness lies in the fact that the Administrator is not obligated–as far as I can tell–to use an auction for distributing the pollution permits (“emissions allowances”) to industry. This seems to leave open the possibility of a give-away. If that happens, then this bill will turn out to be not much better than Lieberman’s. While Section 704 (f) (2) (A) tells the Administrator to distribute any leftover permits to “households, communities, and other entities,” this is only an after-the-fact distribution. First industry gets a crack at the permits (through a give-away? an auction?), and only after that do households and communities get a chance to participate in the program. I’m sorry to say, that sounds like something paving the way towards a give-away.
Also, if I understand it correctly, Section 704 (f) (2) (D) grants the Administrator the ability to issue extra pollution permits (or by some other means to give relief to industry) if the cost of permits rises too high (according to the Administrator’s understanding of “too high”). That’s a dangerous loophole. Again, I find the law-speak a bit confusing, so the size of this loophole isn’t entirely clear to me. It does seem–thankfully–to be limited, because the Administrator is required to begin reducing the number of permits available after a maximum of three years of stalling the program. Still, all this vagueness and potential loopholiness has got me feeling more cautious than optimistic.
That’s it for now.