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Friday, Jul 10, 2009, 9:00 am

Weekly Mulch: The Pros and Cons of the Climate Bill

By Raquel Brown
The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, narrowly passed in the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of June. The ACES bill seeks to mitigate climate change via emission reductions, investments in energy technology, creation of clean energy jobs, and rigid standards for energy efficiency. Check out Grist for a valuable breakdown of the act.

ACES is far from perfect and required many concessions to pass. But did lawmakers compromise too much? The climate bill is getting mixed reactions: Proponents feel that ACES holds historical and environmental significance as the first legislation designed to combat global warming, whereas critics think the bill is little more than a "massive energy tax."

Businesses dislike the bill’s stringent greenhouse gas regulations, but many environmentalists are concerned that the bill is too watered down. As Dara Colwell writes for AlterNet, the carbon offsets proposed in the ACES bill are largely unsuccessful in other countries. The European Union instituted a similar program five years ago, and according to the Wall Street Journal, European emissions actually grew 1 per cent each year under the program. A straight carbon tax, rather than cap-and-trade, would yield more positive results, increasing transparency and helping us taper off coal.

And what do right wing skeptics have to say about all this hoopla? As Grist's Kate Sheppard reports, Republicans were highly critical of the bill, denouncing its ability to spur any economic growth. Remember Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla), who famously called global warming “the greatest hoax perpetuated on mankind?” Meanwhile, Democrats have praised the bill’s economic potential.

Focusing on the bigger picture, Colin Beavan at Yes! Magazine argues that ACES’ flaws are worth overlooking. As one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, the U.S. needs to set an example by committing to fight climate change. Failing to do so before December's U.N. conference in Copenhagen would be an unwise political move. Additionally, the ACES bill is the last opportunity to pass any climate or energy legislation before 2010's midterm elections.

As ACES moves to the Senate, legislators are grappling with the bill’s many imperfections. According to Aaron Wiener of The Washington Independent, Democrats are prepared to strengthen the bill's provisions as they push the legislation forward, but many Republicans argue that the bill won't survive because of the current economic crisis.

Even though many felt the final bill leaves something to be desired, ACES does include key equity provisions, thanks to Green For All's (GFA) campaigning. As GFA Youth Organizer Julia H. Rhee writes for RaceWire:
With over 3.8 million youth, ages 18-24, neither in school or jobs, it’s clear we have to provide better opportunities to engage our young people. Particularly for youth of color who have been locked out of the education process and won’t follow a traditional 4-year college path, we need viable alternatives to the streets. We need to scale up healthy, career-track jobs that will allow our youth to advance and not be left behind.

This provision will mean that as green job contracts come down the pipe, quality standards will ensure they are good jobs, and local hiring practices will make them available to low-income local communities.

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