Aug. 1, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

A Big Thaw for Climate Change

The compromises reached this week also are aimed at minimizing costs for consumers and protecting manufacturers facing the potential for costs not shared by their overseas competitors — two of the biggest criticisms of the scheme.

Instead of the 100 percent auctions that President Barack Obama proposed during his campaign, Waxman and Markey agreed to initially give away most of the carbon emission permits for free in an effort to prevent economic disruptions or a surge in electric rates.

And in negotiations with Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), Waxman agreed to a 17 percent cut in carbon emissions in 2020, instead of the 20 percent that he had sought, which Boucher, who hails from coal country, had feared would outpace technologies like carbon capture from coal-fired power plants.

The renewable electricity standard was trimmed to 20 percent by 2020, although as much as 8 percent could come from efficiency improvements, Markey said.

Backers of nuclear power, including Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), also got commitments for incentives for new nuclear plants as well, including an exemption from the renewable electricity requirements.

Members praised the apparent deal, while cautioning that they wanted to see it on paper before committing to it.

“I think they knew from the beginning that all of this would need to be addressed, and to the chairman’s credit, they sat down with us,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), who has major steel interests in his district that would get free emissions credits.

“I have to give Mr. Markey a lot of credit,” said Gonzalez, who praised him in particular for being open to technologies like nuclear power.

Not everybody was wholly satisfied, of course.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) said he was still concerned that there wouldn’t be enough revenue raised to insulate lower-income residents from the higher costs the plan would impose.

“The cost of everything is going to go up — electricity, food, plastics, rubber, autos — the cost of everything is going to go up,” he said.

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) said he wants language added to tightly regulate the trading of the credits to prevent speculation.

“I’m not for it unless we tighten this market,” Stupak said. “I just think there is a windfall for the speculators, and they can’t wait.”

Republicans, meanwhile, appear to be hardening their opposition. Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton (R-Texas) promised a fight at next week’s markup, saying Republicans would “never surrender” on the issue of cap-and-trade, arguing that it is “unilateral economic disarmament.”

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