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Legislation is finally addressing climate change, but it's got some major flaws

Photo from Flickr / [Framing] Insights

Industry generates pollution. A lot of pollution. In 2006, it emitted an estimated 3.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. These aren’t just fuzzy numbers we’re talking about; those 3.4 metric tons account for 57 percent of America’s total carbon dioxide emissions.

Numbers startling you a bit? They startled Congress, too, which is why Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.) introduced America’s Climate Security Act (S. 2191) in October. S. 2191 outlines a plan for overhauling how industrial polluters manage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately for the environment, this bill has some major flaws.

The bill’s authors claim the legislation will control the costs of reducing pollution by allowing electric power, manufacturing, natural gas, transportation and other companies to trade, save and borrow what are essentially pollution rights. It also proposes to give away many of those rights to corporate polluters for free.

As is often the case, what S. 2191 claims to do and what S. 2191 will do are two very different things. Here are just some of the reasons why the bill doesn’t do enough to stop climate change:

  • It gives billions of dollars away to coal, oil and nuclear energy corporations.
  • It would allow a polluter engaged in environmental projects outside its principal business to benefit from the positive results of those projects when calculating compliance with its pollution cap, otherwise known as offsets.
  • It introduces sequestration, a method whereby the polluter tries to collect the carbon dioxide that emanates from a smokestack and inject it deep into the ground. This is bad news for the environment, because the underground carbon could interact with deep saline rock formations to create an explosive, concentrated release of carbon dioxide.
  • It proposes illogical regulations to govern the fuel used for transportation, but not the emissions from the cars, trucks, planes or ships using the fuel.

Some harmful provisions, to say the least.

Instead, lawmakers need to come up with legislation that curbs global warming through higher vehicle efficiency standards, a low-carbon fuel standard, and incentives to reduce the amount of driving.

It may seem counterproductive to argue for climate change legislation to be shelved just when lawmakers finally jump aboard to address global warming. But climate change is a pressing issue, so pressing that it requires the participation of all sectors of the economy and stringent oversight. The fossil fuel companies helped create global warming in the first place. We shouldn’t be rewarding them.