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The Obama Presidency

Blue Sky Mining.

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), said: ‘The American people wanted change in our energy and climate policy. And this is the change that the people are overwhelmingly asking for.’ He called it ‘the most important energy and environment bill in the history of our country.‘” After much wrangling and a half-hearted GOP attempt at filibuster (which is only a prerogative of the Senate), the House passes the Waxman-Markey climate bill, 219-212. (Eight Republicans voted for it, 44 Dems opposed.) The “cap-and-trade” bill “would establish national limits on greenhouse gases, create a complex trading system for emission permits and provide incentives to alter how individuals and corporations use energy.” [Key provisions.]

There is some concern that the bill has been watered down too much out of political necessity: “While the bill’s targets may seem dramatic, they are in fact less than what the science tells us is required to avoid catastrophic warming. The 2020 target in particular is far too weak and quite easy and cheap for the country to meet with efficiency, conservation, renewables and fuel-switching from coal to natural gas.

Still, environmentalists remain hopeful. “It is worth noting that the original Clean Air Act — first passed in 1963 — also didn’t do enough and was subsequently strengthened many times.” And, while the bill — which (sigh) gives away 85% of the new emission allowances (the heart of the “cap-and-trade” market hopefully soon to emerge) to interested parties — looks to “set off a lobbying feeding frenzy,” groups like the NRDC seem to agree that “[t]his is the best bill that can actually get through committee.”

Of course, now the bill has to get through the Senate, where the usual lions lie in wait. “”Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma said ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he declared flatly, ‘because we’ll kill it in the Senate anyway.’” And even some Dems are fatalistic about its prospects. “Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor (D) voted against the measure that he says will die in the Senate. ‘A lot of people walked the plank on a bill that will never become law,’ Taylor told The Hill after the gavel came down.” Looks like Sen. Reid has his work cut out for him.

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