Over the next few days, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will be holding legislative hearings on the Boxer-Kerry bill. The bill primarily focuses on clean jobs, renewable energy, as well as on overall carbon emissions. Proponents of the bill argue it is necessary if the U.S. is serious about tackling climate change; while opponents claim the bill does not do enough to diversify energy sources to tackle this issue.
Currently, the debate over the bill is falling along party lines. There have been, however, some positive signals of bipartisanship given by Senator Linsday Graham (R SC) who last week indicated he would be open to the bill only if it serves as a means to increase nuclear power as well as offshore drilling.
As the debate over the bill unfolds, I expect it to focus on the estimated costs of the bill. As of today, there are no clear indicators about the overall costs but the debate so far has Democrats downplaying the costs and Republican overstating the costs. It is likely the costs will fall somewhere between these arguments.
I expect that public opinion will begin to crystallize on the bill as the details become available. So far, U.S. public opinion is positive regarding the concept of “cap and trade.” But only time will tell where the American public falls on the bill as the pro and con camps entrench themselves in their legislative positions.
Regardless, I believe that regulation of carbon emissions will occur sooner than later and will either be done by Congress or by the EPA. My own preference leans towards the former because at least they are not completely removed from the electoral process, though incumbency remains a powerful force in Congress. I expect the debate over this bill to set the tone for future environmental action by Congress by serving as a barometer about how the institution can manage rural and non-rural interests as they relate to climate change and regulation. Nevertheless, I will reserve my assessment of the bill as more details become available. More to come…