The House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (Waxman-Markey) by a vote of 219 to 212, with forty-four Democrats voting against the measure and eight Republicans voting yes (Only seven Republicans voted for the stimulus).
The bill’s success can be attributed to the efforts key figures, such as former VP Al Gore, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the president himself. Unfortunately, a number of compromises were made along the way. ACES’s sponsors, Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), reduced carbon cap goals and added favors for polluting industries, in the form of free offsets.
In its current form, the ACES sets a goal of 17 percent GHG reduction by 2020 and an 83 percent reduction by 2050. It also continues the process begun by Obama’s stimulus — switching to alternative energy and cleaner technologies, as well as introducing more efficient building standards.
Some environmental voices, such as Greenpeace, have opposed the bill (or at least voiced concerns) because of its giveaways to big industries and its support for carbon capture and storage. In addition, the goal of 17 percent GHG cut by 2020 is not as strong as it should be.
Waxman-Markey is far from perfect, but it is definitely better than nothing. It needs to be strengthened, but if something resembling it doesn’t pass in the next few months, we won’t get another chance before December. And if the U.S. doesn’t have strong energy regulations by the Copenhagen talks, it will be harder to convince China and India to pass their own.
In order to stabilize CO2 levels, we need a WWII-scale effort from everybody, not just lawmakers. Clean, sustainable society is a vision we can achieve — and must achieve in the next few decades. Waxman-Markey is a first step (and it still needs to pass the Senate), but we still have a long way to go.