AMERICAN CLEAN ENERGY AND SECURITY ACT OF 2009
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Mr. KIND. Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my qualified support for the landmark bill before us, H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy Security Act.
Global climate change poses grave risks to our planet, our economy, and our way of life; it, therefore, cries out for bold action to reverse mankind's contribution to the problem. At the same time, taking such action offers us the tremendous opportunity to remake our energy infrastructure to become less dependent on foreign sources of energy, improve the health of our population and environment, and create high-paying jobs here in America.
The sponsors of H.R. 2454 and its many champions here in the House claim that it will do all of these things--that it will ignite America's leadership in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to sustainable levels, shift our nation's energy paradigm away from polluting sources and into clean, renewable ones, and create millions of jobs for domestic workers. I also believe this is the case. However, I fear that under this bill, progress toward these goals will come at great cost to American families, particularly in the area of western Wisconsin I represent and others like it. I am disappointed we did not have more time to debate the cost of the legislation and address our concerns through additional consideration of the bill in the Ways and Means Committee.
H.R. 2454 will require utilities and other greenhouse gas emitters to hold an allowance for each ton of these gases they emit. In the beginning of the program, the government will give a large number of these away to regulated utilities with the requirement that the value of these free allowances be used to mitigate the cost to consumers. While some people are very comfortable with this arrangement, I am not so confident that utilities will pass on the full value of these allowances to ratepayers. The initial years of the European Emissions Trading System demonstrated that giving valuable allowances to utilities for free encourages them to pocket the value rather than reducing electricity rates. Whether the bill's additional layers of administration, oversight, and bureaucracy will be effective at preventing this from happening here is an experiment I would rather not impose on my constituents in western Wisconsin.
I am also concerned that the ACES bill is skewed against regions like mine that are rural and heavily dependent on coal for energy. The formula it establishes for doling out the free allowances to utilities provides more to those areas that need them the least--those that have a lot of zero-emission hydro or nuclear power--rather than those areas like Wisconsin that need the allowances because of their higher emissions. The federal government helped subsidize the hydro and nuclear plants in other parts of the country; ratepayers in my district should not have to send more money their way while we seek to realize the same low-carbon generation.
Finally, the bill allocates funds derived from consumers and spends it on such things as international deforestation, investments in technology, and wildlife adaptation. While these are worthwhile goals that will need to be addressed in the context of combating climate change, I do not think we should do so by putting an additional financial burden on those who can least afford it.
That is why I introduced H.R. 2757, the Consumer Assistance Rebate for Energy, or CARE, Act. This bill would have ensured that any money raised by the government as a result of climate change legislation would be given back to consumers directly to help them cope with any price increases for energy and consumer goods. The EPA stated in its analysis of the ACES bill that this type of approach is the least burdensome on low-income consumers, and that it achieves greenhouse gas reductions at a lower overall cost than the ACES system of free allowances to businesses and utilities.
While I wish my concerns about consumer protection had been addressed more fully in the bill before us, the legislation has changed for the better since being reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and there is enough in the bill to recommend it that I am willing to support its passage today so that it will move to the Senate where it can be improved further.
The American Clean Energy Security Act will live up to its name in many ways. It will transition our energy systems away from unsustainable, polluting fossil fuels and toward clean, renewable resources such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydrogen. It will provide an unprecedented investment in the technologies and industries of tomorrow, creating more than 4,000 jobs in my Congressional District alone, and millions nationwide.
America is the nation that invented solar cell technology decades ago, and the investments we make in the coming years will allow us to regain our leadership in the world and be the center of innovation and industry that will drive the clean energy revolution.
The bill also includes funding to help our natural resources, and fish and wildlife in particular, adapt to the changes in their habitat that have already begun.
Finally, the bill includes opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and foresters to be a part of the climate solution, which is critical for my district, where agriculture remains the largest industry. The USDA, in consultation with EPA, will establish a program where businesses and utilities can meet their greenhouse gas obligations by paying farmers who help sequester carbon. This new revenue stream will be very important in helping the agriculture sector cope with higher costs for energy, fuel, and fertilizer.
Again, I wish we had had more time to deliberate on this extremely large and complex piece of legislation. I wish the bill contained more direct, more transparent ways of compensating consumers. I wish the bill treated regions equitably. But I support strong action on climate change and the creation of millions of new jobs, and I will vote to move this bill forward in the hope that the Senate will pass a bill that works better for more Americans.
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