As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released some provocative numbers about the planet’s temperature last week, the debate over Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey’s (D-MA) “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009” (ACESA) climate change legislation continued to heat up.
According to NOAA’s Climatic Data Center, Earth’s ocean surface temperature in July was the warmest on record, 1.06 degrees above the 20th century average of 61.5 degrees, and breaking the previous high set in 1998. In the more than 120 years that the data has been collected, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature for July was the fifth warmest on record.
NOAA said the El Nino effect in the Pacific could be the culprit for some of the impact as related sea-surface temperature anomalies increased for the sixth consecutive month. Still worthy of note is that Arctic sea ice coverage decreased to the third-lowest level recorded and has continued to decrease at a rate of 6.1% per decade since 1979.
This will likely add more fodder for proponents of the Waxman-Markey bill that narrowly passed the House in June and is waiting for Congress to return in September to resume its debate in the Senate. The bill requires a 17% reduction from 2005 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, striving for an 83% reduction by 2050.
On the other side of the argument is economics. Manufacturers and energy producers are the prime targets of the Waxman-Markey bill as it looks to curb greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades; the two industries emit the largest amounts of greenhouse gases. These industries in return are rallying that carrying the burden of additional costs placed on them by the bill will ultimately lead to massive job losses, an apt argument as the country stares a 9.4% unemployment rate in the face and is still wobbling toward economic recovery. For example, the American Petroleum Institute (API) claims that as many as 341,000 jobs would be eliminated in Texas alone if the version of the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House is signed unchanged into law. According to the analysis done by CRA International—the consulting firm API commissioned to conduct the study— the ACES legislation would result in 2 million jobs lost across the United States and result in a 1.3% decline in gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.
The advocacy group Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP) has lauded the Waxman-Markey bill as a step forward and continues to call for increased bipartisan support to ensure that the bill receives enough votes to clear the Senate hurdle. From REP’s perspective, “winning broader support would require Senate Democrats to make a good-faith effort to engage Republicans” while at the same time require Republicans to contribute credible ideas for crafting a universally applauded version of the bill. The REP has drawn similarities to Ronald Reagan’s battle to protect the ozone layer from emissions in 1987 to President Barack Obama’s environmental/industry stand-off today. The argument of economic impacts was prevalent then as well.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) also released their commissioned study of the Waxman-Markey bill last week that came to similar conclusions as API’s. According to the analysis, by 2030, job losses in the U.S. as the result of the legislation would be between 1.8 million and 2.4 million. It also warned that by 2020, gasoline prices would increase between 8.4%-11.1% and that those percentages would more than double by 2030, with natural gas and electricity prices seeing considerable increases as well. According to the NAM/ACCF study, losses to GDP between 2012 and 2030 would range between $2.2 trillion and $3.1 trillion, while GDP would fall between 1.8-2.4% by 2030 as a result of the Waxman-Markey bill.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has lashed out against the NAM study—not the first time the two entities have butt heads— calling the projected costs “grossly overestimated.”
“For example, they inexplicably restrict the amount of wind energy that can come on line each year through 2030 to a level (5,000 megawatts) that was greatly exceeded last year (8,358 megawatts) and will soon be again this year,” said Liz Perera, Washington representative, UCS.
Much like REP, she recommended, “It’s time for the country to work together to resolve this problem rather than trying to confuse the public.”
While the Senators have returned to their respective states to address local issues, as well as hear their constituents’ opinions on the issues of healthcare and the environment, evidence for both sides will continue to mount. ACES eked by the House by a mere seven votes, and though Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in the Senate as well, it does not mean the bill’s future is already written.
Matthew Carr, NACM staff writer. Follow us on Twitter@NACM_National