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Saturday, June 27, 2009

ACES in the House: a Job, Well, Done.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 passed the House of Representatives Friday afternoon, with only one vote to spare. We owe Chairmen Waxman and Markey their fair due for getting this done – molding a bill that reduces US emissions 83% below 2005 levels by 2050 and that 217 other members of the house will actually vote for is impressive. Its passage is groundbreaking. But the bill itself isn’t.

As soon as we’re done congratulating Mr. Waxman, Mr. Markey and the other 217 representatives on the “yes” side, we owe it to ourselves and future generations to light a fire under them, the rest of the House, the Senate and President Obama.

ACES isn’t good enough. It isn’t smart enough. And gosh darn it, people who fully understand the science and economics of climate and energy don’t like it. But that’s the sorry state of the US Congress today – even with a handsome Democratic majority, legislators are still more concerned with dirty industry’s short-term profits than they are with the long-term feasibility of our modern economy. This bill compromises our economy and our environment for political necessity. To the credit of Chairmen Waxman and Markey, the slim margin of passage tells me they compromised almost exactly as much as was needed to get this done, and not a bit more.

The environmental community was anything but united behind this bill. While dirty industry allies like NRDC and Environmental Defense Fund celebrated the bill as the end-all, be-all policy, organizations like 1Sky, Energy Action Coalition and Focus the Nation urged passage of the bill with steep caveats – calling it out for its weaknesses and demanding improvement. To the left organizations like Greenpeace and Congressmen like Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) opposed the bill, protesting its weakness and potential for financial corruption.

In order for the passage of this bill to go down in history as a step forward, it must be followed by bigger steps, bolder steps, truly transformational decisions at every level of government and in every sector of society. This won’t be easy. Conventional wisdom says the Senate is a much more conservative body than the House, with the interests of dirty energy and dirty industry even more deeply entrenched.

But there are only 100 Senators, and we need support from only 60 of them (thanks to the GOP’s willingness to toss democracy out the window and employ an always-filibuster policy). I am disappointed with the House version of the bill, but it has not shattered my confidence in humanity to the point that I am willing to give up the idea that our movement may be able to show 60 of these powerful individuals the light. And in fact we must either strengthen this bill significantly and pass it in the Senate, or kill the bill.

Allow me to repeat: If ACES does not get a whole lot stronger in the Senate, it is time to kill the bill. Kill the bill and start over, or kill the bill and let EPA use its authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Of those options, I strongly prefer the former. So how can we do it?

In my humble opinion, the first thing our movement must do is acknowledge that we have failed. We failed to pass a transformational bill through the House, and if we employ the same strategy in the Senate, we will almost certainly see an insufficient, deeply flawed piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama.

We must internalize failure, learn from our mistakes, and create a strategy for Senate engagement that changes the political landscape to line up with the science, instead of changing the bill to line up with the political landscape.

Our movement has power. Young people elected Barack Obama. Our movement is growing in every state, in every congressional district, every county and town in America. It is time to flex that power. No more asking Congress what it can handle. We need to tell Congress what we demand, build a grassroots army that can threaten the seats of Senators who are in the way, and if we don’t get a strengthened ACES through, we need to replace the Senators (and Representatives) who are dooming us to a 2 degree Celsius plus increase in global temperatures, and a world that looks like the nastier parts of the bible – fire, flood and famine.

Let’s regroup, let’s analyze what we did that worked and what didn’t, and let’s get this done in the Senate.


Anonymous said...

First try using science as opposed to consensus. You will find this mythical bogey man "carbon" has absolutely nothing to do with climate. You will find what man has known for thousands of years, its the sun stupid. 90% of the green house gasses that make it possible for mankind to breath oxygen with warm enough temperatures survive is driven by the oceans water vapor. Before you spoutting your junk science and eco-religion, TRY reading a book or two.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you guys respond to comments and support your position?

I have now seen 3 people ask you the same the question and no answer. I will try again.

Can you explain why you want to regulate a naturally occurring element which occupies only 4 part per 10,000 or .04% of our atmosphere?

Why do you want increase the cost of everything we create, buy, export, and manufacture?

Why do you want to move business out of our country to other nations that are not near as efficient, nor environmentally conscious? Read this if you think I am full of it -

Why do you want to hurt our GDP, put people out of work, reduce the amount of taxes collected which our government uses to help not only US citizens, but other people around the world?

Alisha Fowler said...

Great post Alex, thanks for posting this!