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Good news!

June 27th, 2009

The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act bill, establishing an emissions trading scheme for the US, has been passed by the US House of Representatives. The vote was close, and depended on the last vestiges of bipartisanship, with the 219-212 majority depending on 8 Republicans willing to save the planet (44 Democrats voted against, a few because they thought the bill was too weak). Since good actions by Republicans are so rare nowadays, I’ll salute all eight, as listed here Bono Mack (Calif), Castle (Del.), LoBiondo (NJ), McHugh (NY), Reichert (Wash.), Smith (NJ), Lance (NJ), Kirk (Ill.). My guess is that the narrowness of the majority is a little misleading. In cases like this, the Administration cuts enough deals to get a majority, but usually has a few votes in reserve.

I have no idea how things will go in the Senate, but I’m feeling optimistic that the bill will pass in the end. The Lieberman-Warner bill got 48 votes in 2008 (including 7 Reps) and the Senate is a lot better now than it was then.

Of course, this good news has the implication that Australia could be left at the back of the pack, among the last developed countries to sign on to emissions trading. That’s the price of having a delusional and disfunctional opposition, and of the Labor backroom deals that managed to give Steven Fielding the balance of power in the Senate.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    June 27th, 2009 at 22:44 | #1

    The Labor party is delusional and dysfunctional too. The Liberals deny climate change. The Labor party says it accepts the science and then does nothing effective. When you look at the detail of their scheme it is clear that is a con with so many get-out clauses for big-fossils that it aint worth the paper it aint yet legislated on.

    Who is worse, the deluded fools (Liberals) or the apparently somewhat competent thinkers (Labor) who deliberately lie and delay and put forward feel-good, do-nothing policies in complete bad faith?

  2. fred
    June 27th, 2009 at 23:17 | #2

    Can I have option C please?

  3. pablo
    June 28th, 2009 at 12:55 | #3

    Ikonoclast prompts me to report there are currently 42 ships off the port of Newcastle, nearly all of them waiting to load coal. I leave it to the imagery of readers to think about that as they digest Iko’s post.

  4. Hermit
    June 28th, 2009 at 15:56 | #4

    I daresay the US Senate has clones of our very own Fielding, Xenophon and Joyce to throw a spanner in the works. Even if a helpful looking bill passes through the next step is implementation. I would think that US Big Coal has looked at the success of their antipodean cousins and will use similar tactics. For example somebody has convinced Bill Clinton to assure Rudd that clean coal is a goer.

    Therefore I don’t think we can say yet that Australia looks weak compared to the US whatever the supposed targets. Rudd originally promised more than Obama by ratifying Kyoto. As pointed out above Australia’s leviathan coal exports prove that Rudd is not really fair dinkum. Now Wong’s 20% RET is the big hope in lieu of the feeble ETS. When or if the US makes a similar about turn we’ll know nothing is really different.

  5. June 28th, 2009 at 17:26 | #5

    While I haven’t read all 1200 pages of the Waxman-Markey bill, I do like what I have read a lot better than the CPRS. One of the better things about the Waxman-Markey bill is that it has a sort of price floor by having a reserve price when permits are auctioned. It also has less free permits for emissions intensive industries.

    The CPRS would need to be changed if it one day becomes integrated by trading with the US scheme. At the moment, because the Australian government handles emissions intensive industries with kid-gloves, it prevents Australia from exporting permits to other countries. This implies a potential loss of Australian exports and the loss of an income stream for low emissions technologies.

    Even if Australia allowed permits to be exported, it would still be incompatible with the US scheme. The US scheme only allows firms to buy permits from other schemes if they have a strict cap on emissions, and have offset provisions at least as strict as those of the US. Australia won’t have a strict cap on emissions until 2016 or so because of the way that the price ceiling is implemented. Australia’s allowance of an unlimited amount of CDM credits and reforestation credits also presents a barrier.

  6. philip travers
    June 28th, 2009 at 21:02 | #6

    Rense.com and AlexJones of PrisonPlanet and Infowars.com have slightly different views as Americans,and seeing most of those sitting as Republicans and Democrats as well didn’t actually read the content completely.Endorsement of its passing here,seems slightly off the rocker,rather than not being Rocket Science!?

  7. swio
    June 28th, 2009 at 22:22 | #7

    The Lieberman-Warner bill got 48 votes in 2008 (including 7 Reps) and the Senate is a lot better now than it was then.

    Don’t forget that it effectively requires 60 senator yes votes, not 51, to pass anything in the US Senate. The complicated rules around cloture mean a simple majority of 51 cannot pass legislation. Long story short, it does take 51 votes to pass legislation, but in order for a vote to be actually held on passing a bill, there must first be a vote to end the debate on the bill (otherwise know as cloture). The rules of the US senate say that it takes 60 votes, not 51, to end debate.

    Not many people seem to know this, not even Americans. But unless you have 60 votes in the senate, you don’t have a pass. Its common practice for US Senators to declare themselves in favour of a bill and then vote against cloture (ie against the bill. Its a great way for US senators to satisfy lobbyist without letting their constituents understand what they have done.

    60 is 12 votes more than 48, not just two. The US senate is better, but not 12 senators better than in 2008. And those 48 votes might be pretty meaningless as a bill getting only 48 was never in a serious position to pass so would not have attracted the full power of Washington lobbyist against it.

  8. Peter Evans
    June 29th, 2009 at 16:00 | #8

    The real action here doesn’t start till July 1, 2011. From that day on, the ALP will only have to negotiate with the Greens, Fielding won’t be in Parliament, Xenophon will be Xenowho, and the Lib/Nats will be dealt out of the game. Everyone pretty well knows that, but of course, they need to be seen to be doing something between now and the election, when the coalition will lose 3 to 5 senators. In the mean time, the ALP can use global warming to wedge the coalition (it’s the gift that keeps on giving) and have a bit of fun with the Greens. At that point too, the energy industry will have seen the further demise of the coalition, and won’t be able to use support for them to mug the ALP.

  9. Steve Bloom
    June 30th, 2009 at 21:33 | #9

    In the end, I think Obama will be willing to exercise the “nuclear option” (suspending the filibuster rule) so as to allow straight majority votes on both the climate and health care bills. Preparatory to that he will exert maximum pressure, which might even include insisting that opponents actually follow the filibuster rule. Such a spectacle, involving in its full-blown form days or even weeks of opponents forced to talk continuously in order to hold off the final vote, has not been seen in the modern media age and could well be prone to being staged so as to squeeze out the needed extra support.

    In the meantime, Obama has a lot of independent authority and doesn’t seem hesitant to use it. As a left-Green I’m not actually much of an Obama supporter, but it’s hard to find anything to dislike in such statements.

    Another often misunderstood point is that while it’s true that W-M bars Obama from regulating CO2 beyond what the bill provides for, that’s only the case for the Clean Air Act. Obama retains full rule-making authority under the Clean Water Act, and a process to regulate CO2 due to its ocean acidification effect is already underway.

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