The Urgency behind the Proposal
The catastrophic oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico has indeed sent shockwaves throughout the world, and has also had a bearing on the bill, especially in creating an urgency to introduce it and in removing any hesitation, if there ever was, in implementing radical measures. What the bill specifically intends to achieve is, according to Kerry, to reduce and end any dependence on foreign oil, while ensuring the U.S. industry remains competitive. This would be achieved, Kerry said, by a broad approach that has been put forward in the proposal. Kerry hinted at the large conglomeration of leaders that had joined him at the news conference for the bill presentation, as a positive sign of things to come, an indication of the willingness to change when necessary for the good of the nation.
While an energy bill has been passed in the House, President Barack Obama supported the efforts of John Kerry and Joe Lieberman in attempting to take up a similar course of action in the Senate and highlighting the need for radical energy reform. Obama believes that emphasis on “clean energy technology” and America’s innovation in the field will lead to the generation of employment and also provide a strategic edge in the global economy. He believes this is a giant leap towards the future of America’s energy needs.
There was opposition though, chiefly in the arguments of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. He prefers greater emphasis to be laid on immigration reform. Indeed that is where the attention would be diverted to before the bill faces the chance of being approved. Senator Lindsey Graham had also pulled out of the talks with Kerry and Lieberman on the drafting of this energy proposal, citing the vast uncertainty that’s dominating the politics of immigration and the oil spill crisis as roadblocks to such a groundbreaking legislation in the area of energy and climate to garner support. Indeed, the issue of November’s midterm congressional elections poses doubts on the approval of any kind of legislation on energy reform, in 2010 at least.
However, the urgency of such a proposal was highlighted by even energy companies that generally are resistant to any reform. The need for the bill to be passed is based on the fear that greater delay would make the country unable to make inroads into the market for alternative energy, even as it continues to depend on overseas sources for oil and thereby initiate climate change. This scenario needs to be avoided, the supporters of the proposal felt.
Issues Addressed in the Bill
The benefits of the proposal were explained by Lieberman as creating greater jobs and decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases along with getting rid of overseas dependence for oil. Lieberman stressed that all these could be achieved without contributing to America’s deficit. A CEO of a major company dealing with coal-energy was positive about the bill, saying that it would eventually lead to a “low-carbon world” thanks to the incentives offered for nuclear as well as clean coal energy that are key to meeting the country’s goals as it serves to make progress economically and energy-wise through the 21st century.
Additional documents were presented by Lieberman and Kerry in order to address concerns regarding increased taxes in order to meet costs for bringing about an energy reform. They claimed that direct rebates as well as energy-bill discounts would result in consumers receiving two-thirds of revenue generated from the proposal that hasn’t been diverted for deficit reduction. The further tax cuts and a program to refund energy would be beneficial for Americans who could be affected by potential price rises in energy.
The other issues addressed by the bill include programs that would help companies in moving to a low-carbon system, incentives for helping the coal industry employ cleaner techniques, money set apart for developing alternative sources of energy, and expanding production of nuclear power.
Taxation on Emission of Greenhouse Gases
The most conspicuous objective is to improve the quality of air, or in other words, to address climate change. As per the levels set in another energy bill passed in the House in 2009, the current proposal seeks to reduce greenhouse emissions to those levels. It seeks to reduce the levels of emissions recorded in 2005 by 17 percent by 2010. This would continue to 42 percent by 2030 and 83 percent by 2050. Greenhouse gas emissions above the set limits would be taxed, but it would be 2016 before any charges are imposed in industrial remitters.
Lieberman pointed out that fixing a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions would enable manufacturers to better calculate costs involved in investing in new technology. Sources of energy such as wind and solar power would no longer be perceived as expensive and unreachable thanks to the tax on emissions bringing conventional greenhouse gases emitting sources of energy up to the level of these unconventional environment friendly technologies, according to FPL CEO Lewis Hay. Industries would also be offered incentives to help them break away from fossil fuels, as well as technologies and manufacturing techniques causing high emissions. These incentives include a $6 billion per year incentive to increase efficiency and decrease fuel consumption of the transportation infrastructure.
While offshore oil drilling has been encouraged by the bill in order to increase domestic oil production, states will be provided powers to prevent excessive drilling, in order to prevent incidents such as the recent oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico.
Response from Environmentalists
The bill was generally accepted well in environmental circles, as long as it was held as the first step to greater and more radical measures. The main concern for environmentalists is that the bill, according to them, may not be sufficiently decisive and that further steps must have been taken.
The emission limits to be enforced through fixed taxes based on the level of exceeded limit has been applauded by all environmentalists, since it has clear benefits, in that manufacturers would be driven to cleaner energy sources faster than ever. The investment made in this regard would generate more jobs, reduce chances of dangerous and wildlife threatening oil spills (thanks also to enforcement provided to states to prevent more offshore drilling) and eventually make the environment cleaner and more sustainable for future generations. The only grouse environmentalists have is that the bill could also have included clear-cut and mandatory performance standards for oil drillers.
So overall the bill seems to have pleased everyone, except that senators demanding greater attention on the immigration reform could hinder the passing of the groundbreaking climate change and energy bill.
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