US House energy leader issues cap-and-trade bill

07 October 2008 22:23  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The top Democrat energy expert in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday issued draft legislation for a national cap-and-trade mandate to cut emissions to 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.


The draft legislation issued by Congressman John Dingell (Democrat-Michigan), chairman of the House Energy Committee, would impose mandatory emissions levels chiefly on the US industry and energy sectors.


Dingell said the 460-page proposed legislation, known as a discussion draft, reflects two years of his committee’s work on climate change along with input from industry, environmental groups and labour unions.


“This draft marks an important step in our ongoing efforts to address this increasingly serious problem,” Dingell said, adding that he hoped to get the bill “enacted quickly in the next Congress”.


The bill, which is available on the committee’s Web site, would apply primarily to power plants, producers and importers of oil and other fossil-based fuels, large industrial facilities, producers and importers of bulk gases and to local distributors of natural gas.


Cap-and-trade systems are designed to impose an immediate limit or cap on current emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and distribute or auction emission permits to individual industrial sites.  Those permits could be bought and sold - the trade part - among companies whose plant sites exceed or fall below their allowed emissions levels.


Under Dingell’s proposed legislation, the permits would be auctioned.


According to the draft bill’s executive summary, US jobs would be protected from offshore competition by imposing “border adjustments”, presumably meaning tariffs, on imports of carbon-intensive products.


As Dingell has indicated, no action on the draft bill is anticipated until the new 111th US Congress convenes in January next year.  The next Congress is expected to have an even greater Democrat majority in both the House and Senate as a consequence of the 4 November election this year.


However, stronger Democrat control in the next Congress does not ensure passage of a cap-and-trade climate bill, according to energy analyst Kevin Book at investment firm Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Company (FBR).


“The economic crisis provides a challenging context for a new, market-based surcharge on fossil energy consumption, given the ravages of recent price spikes on consumers and governments,” Book said.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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