Skip the Political Blabbing: Here Is What Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Says

By Andrew Moseman | May 12, 2010 6:43 pm

KerryNearly a thousand pages in length, the Senate climate and energy bill (pdf) is here. Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman unveiled the revised bill today.

The carbon emissions targets are: 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. That’s made to match the goals in the House bill that passed in 2009. In addition, the bill proposes putting a price on carbon. Sen. Kerry says:

“The most important and unique thing this bill does is to put a price on carbon that reflects its real cost to our society and our economy,” he said. Investing in renewable energy, he continued, “becomes financially attractive once carbon is really priced at what it costs us.” Kerry added, “This is going to change the face of American energy” [CBS News].

The so-named American Power Act comes out in the shadow of the ongoing BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, something that’s painfully clear in the new text.

One of the central elements of the Senate bill — incentives to increase domestic offshore oil production — has been radically rewritten in recent days, in the aftermath of the explosion and fire on a drilling rig in the gulf on April 20, leaving an undersea well leaking oil that has yet to be stanched. Instead of providing for a broad expansion of offshore drilling, the Kerry-Lieberman measure would have the effect of drastically limiting oil operations off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by giving states the right to veto any drilling plan that could cause environmental or economic harm [The New York Times].

That veto power would extends to 75 miles beyond the state’s shoreline, and the Interior Department would have to study how badly a leak would affect the economy or environment of a state. That’s not the only concession to the states written into the new bill.

States that go ahead with offshore drilling would retain 37.5 percent of the federal revenue generated — a shift from current policy. Now royalty revenue goes to the Treasury; states collect no royalties [AP].

President Obama praised the bill and its chances for passage. But, as the New York Times reports, it’s not clear yet whether the bill will even make it to the Senate floor this year because of the crowded schedule. We’ll keep following the story.

Related Content:
80beats: Climate Bill Passes in the House, Moves on to Senate
80beats: 5 Offshore Oil Hotspots Beyond the Gulf That Could Boom—Or Go Boom
DISCOVER: It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Big Battle Over Climate Science, interviews with Judith Curry & Michael Mann
DISCOVER: The State of the Climate—And of Climate Science
The Intersection: The Waxman-Markey Climate Bill… Tuff Enuff?

Image: flickr / cliff1066

  • Junior

    “…once carbon is really priced at what it costs us.”

    How much does my exhaling cost the government? Will I be taxed on farts as well?

  • Matt Tarditti

    Great commentary #1. I hope to continue reading more nuanced, intelligent comments from you in the future.
    On a relevant note, I wonder what was the calculus used to determine the “real price of carbon”. I’m not opposed to the idea at all, but the formula used to figure out the carbon costs will certainly come under attack, and I hope they are able to intelligently defend it.
    By the way, does anyone else despise the way they name these bills?

  • http:/ Stephen Daugherty

    First, carbon dioxide in the air represents just 1/26th of one percent of the atmosphere’s composition.

    Additionally, lets be blunt about what we’re doing here: We’re taking millions of years worth of dead swamp and bog plant, and millions of years of buried sea-floor plankton, and we’re releasing all the carbon those plants stored in their cells over that time period.

    What you do when you breath out and fart is let out the by-products of digestion and sugar metabolism, by yourself or the bacteria in your gut. Because of that, you can exhale and fart no more than the amount of carbon in your actual diet. A car can easily burn through a couple gallons worth of gas in the course of a day. You’d be hard put to eat that much, and in the form that your car processes it, your car can much more efficiently product CO2 as a by product of its chemical reaction.

    And that’s your car. Think of a big tanker ship, a jet, or a powerplant that shovels coal in by the train car load. Would those not turn hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide in much greater quantities?

    You talk about breathing and farting because you’re working off the notion or the rhetorical stance that people like me are saying that any CO2 emissions are evil. They’re not. Our basic problem is the huge rate at which we’re putting this stuff out, a rate that’s greater than nature’s ability to lock it back up. It’s a question of reducing our output to sane levels so nature can catch up with it.

  • http://none Gene Thomas


    Why sponsor a Carbon Credit market?

    Wouldn’t it be more affective and simple to charge EVERY polluter a Fee of 5% of the cost of fossil fuel they use.

    The Fees would build a Green Energy Fund ($ Trillions Yearly) used exclusively to encourage known and new methods and means of reducing pollution.


    Gene Thomas
    May 11, 2010

  • Junior

    Thanks Stephen, I don’t disagree, I just don’t think taxing carbon is the smartest plan. Funny how people immediately think people against this bill are against the AGW argument entirely, that’s a result of political brainwashing in my opinion. Same with the EPA declaring CO2 a pollutant, which it clearly is not.

    Why not help power plants convert to natural gas instead of coal? Why hybrids for cars? Batteries require mining for rare metals, plastics, and they make cars less efficient due to excess weight, number of batteries, production costs, and cost to the consumer (can’t live on government subsidies for “green” cars forever). We’ll run out of rare metals before oil in the long term if the world starts driving battery powered cars and we’ll be right back where we started, with this type of legislation. I believe it would be more efficient and fiscally responsible to push for natural gas (they already use natural gas to produce h2 for experimental cars and Honda makes a Civic that runs on CNG) , clean diesel (which can run on algae or used veggie oil, because using fresh corn is inefficient), and hydrogen power (when they develop efficient and safe means to store h2). All of which will also make us energy independent and non-dependent on oil, without having to charge carbon emissions. There’s no way we’re ever going to eliminate emissions entirely, but doing all of these will cut it dramatically over the long term.

    There’s plenty other incentives the government can offer that doesn’t involve punishment, but rather tax incentives for converting to natural gas, sequestering carbon below ground, filters, etc. The taxes are only in there to fund the government’s oversight and regulation of energy via another bureaucratic agency, not necessary, it’s only going to cost us more money in the end, higher taxes are passed to the consumer through higher utility prices and government agencies waste government money like nobody’s business. I worked for a government agency and witnessed the waste firsthand.

  • scribbler

    What impact will taxing the INDUSTRIES that create carbon by products have?

    They will move to places they aren’t taxed…

    The same products will be made and the carbon will be released and people here will simply lose jobs.

    But hey, if they are unemployed, they won’t have any income so they will consume less…

    Yeah, that’s it…

  • Kazakhstanny Danny

    I think its funny that people think that if the the bill fails to come up for a vote before the end of this congress that its a surety that it will come up for a vote in the next.

    The Democrats are going to take a hit this November, and maybe even lose both houses. If that happens, don’t expect to see a climate bill with any teeth whatsoever for the remainder of the Obama presidency.

    The way the GOP sank the last science education bill this week, should tell you all you need to know about how a climate bill will fair over the next two years.

  • Ian

    Dear scribbler,

    America has huge reserves of natural gas, plenty of room for more nuclear energy, and is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. Simply put if we tax the huge reserves of coal that America has it won’t get used. The health benefits of better air quality and not releasing hundreds of tons of toxic heavy metals into our water tables would make avoiding coal worth it without global warming.

  • JJ

    Ian, how fast do you think power plants can convert to alternative energy sources? Likely around a decade at least. That means for the next 8+ years or so, we will all be paying higher utility bills until R&D finds a way to use alternative sources. That also doesn’t include making that energy available nationwide, that could be another decade, bringing us to at least 15 to 20 years of increased energy prices. Once a tax is in place, it’s hardly ever revoked, as history has noted. It’s not as cut and dry as you may think. We may have the technology available, but it’s certainly not adept to provide power on that scale. Currently, coal is used to power about 70% of the US, converting all of them to be at least as efficient as they are now while limiting emissions is not a simple engineering task.

  • DennisB

    I am no friend of Coal. I want to buy a Volt and have been doing research into cheap hydro for a couple years now.
    But this “fake market” set up by the government is a recipe for disaster.
    Since I have been out of work for over a year, I am a little sensitive to the government (local, state or federal), dumping regulation and hidden taxes all over the economy right now.
    Which is exactly what this is
    Thanks to the changes that have made in health care employers do not know weather to fire or hire people depending on their size….
    The democrats will admit that heavy handed taxes slow growth and development. Why else do they push tax breaks for cities that are struggling?
    So why, during one of the worst recessions we have had in decades, are they pushing this?


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