U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said today at a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) that the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007 now before the committee may be too risky, too costly and likely to cause unintended consequences.
“Climate change is a problem, and I have been ready to take a giant step on climate change since the first year I became a senator,” said Alexander, a member of the EPW Committee that is responsible for climate change legislation. “But I think there is a wiser approach.”
Alexander said that legislation tailored to effectively reduce emissions from key sectors, rather than an economy-wide approach, would be more likely to address climate change without having detrimental economic impacts.
“Tailoring our approach to just power plants and transportation would cover about two-thirds of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” Alexander said. “That would be a lower cost, simpler approach with fewer surprises that would have a better chance of getting 60 votes on the Senate floor.”
Since Alexander’s first year in the Senate in 2003, he has introduced legislation during each 2-year Congress to put a cap on carbon emissions from electricity power plants. In April, Alexander and Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) introduced legislation to reduce air pollution and the threat of global warming by enacting strict standards on four major pollutants from power plants. Alexander's legislation would strengthen and put into law new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants, and establish the first-ever caps on carbon emissions from power plants.
Alexander said he will broaden his own legislation by including:
1. a low carbon fuel standard requiring transportation fuels to decrease gradually the amount of carbon in the gasoline or diesel that they contain. Transportation produces one-third of America’s greenhouse gases.
2. an aggressive approach to building energy efficiency.
After signaling his intention to offer another amendment on the Senate floor designed to provide tax relief for low-income taxpayers, Alexander intended to propose amendments to improve the Climate Security Act during Wednesday’s committee meeting, including ones:
1. To research and develop cleaner biofuels. The amendment would authorize Sun Grant Centers to receive grants from the EPA to conduct research and development on the ability of biofuels to reduce air pollution emissions from transportation fuels. The Sun Grant Initiative is a national network of land-grant universities, including the University of Tennessee, and U.S. Department of Energy laboratories that are partnering to build a bio-based economy consisting of biomass electricity plants and biofuels. Alexander said the EPA could use the centers to enhance the nation’s energy security and to promote diversification and environmental sustainability in America’s rural communities.
2. To effectively reduce emissions from the transportation sector. The amendment would establish a carbon fuel standard for the transportation sector that sets targets of five percent less carbon per unit of energy in 2015 and ten percent less carbon in 2020 from current levels. Alexander said using domestic low carbon fuels reduces oil consumption, lowers expenditures on oil imports and saves consumers dollars. “It is time to put performance standards into place that will guarantee that new choices at the pump will be cleaner and more sustainable,” Alexander said.
Alexander said his tax relief amendment, which he will offer during full Senate consideration of the bill, would help mitigate the increases in energy costs for low-income taxpayers. The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act includes an auction of allowances to emit greenhouse gases that is essentially a tax on electricity, Alexander said, because companies would have the added cost of purchasing energy credits that they likely will pass this cost on to consumers in the form of higher energy prices.
“If we are to raise taxes we ought to give relief to the people who need it the most,” said Alexander. “As we work to combat climate change and clean our air, we need to make sure the legislation we put forth doesn’t have unintended consequences.”
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