Federal Relations

June 29, 2009

House Approves Comprehensive Clean Energy Bill

Late Friday night, before the commencement of a July 4th District Work Period (a.k.a. recess), the House of Representatives approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act by a slim 219-212 vote margin. The legislation; sponsored by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming; is designed to reduce pollution that causes global warming while simultaneously reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, major provisions of the 1000 page bill include:

  • Requires electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.
  • Invests $190 billion in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).
  • Mandates new energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry.
  • Reduces carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Complementary measures in the legislation, such as investments in preventing tropical deforestation, will achieve significant additional reductions in carbon emissions.
  • Protects consumers from energy price increases. According to recent analyses from the Congressional Budget Office and the Environmental Protection Agency, the legislation will cost each household less than 50 cents per day in 2020 (not including energy efficiency savings).

From the higher education perspective, the absence of funding for research sufficient to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets set in the bill is seen as a major shortcoming. Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) has been outspoken on this issue; “”I remain deeply concerned that this bill does not include the necessary research and development funding that is needed to reach the 80 percent reduction target set in H.R. 2454.  We will not be able to meet this goal with today’s technologies, and as written the bill does not provide the billions of dollars a year that will be needed to develop them.  This is not a small or parochial concern.  If Americans and others around the world are to embrace a transformation in the way we use and produce energy, they must know that our effort includes the engine to drive the innovation for that transformation.  Without a very robust research effort—many billions of dollars—the vision of transformation will be a mirage and the public will know it. I have been assured by Chairman Waxman, Chairman Markey, Speaker Pelosi, members of the Administration and members of the Senate that they understand this shortcoming and that they will work with me to increase the research funding to drive the innovation we need to transform the way we produce and use energy.”

The much talked about “Innovation Hubs,” now included in the bill, do not completely reflect the vision of “Innovation Hubs” that the Obama administration laid out in the FY 2010 budget request. The legislation has a strong emphasis on translational, near commercialization research, whereas, Chu’s “Hubs” are described as covering the spectrum of R&D from basic research to commercialization.

It is exptected that this legislation will face a much tougher time in the Senate, where a fillibuster can be used by a minority to effectively stop the legislation from moving forward. The Obama administration has articulated that it expects a vote in the Senate in the fall.

HR 2454 Report