Archive for May, 2009

The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy & Security Act (ACES) contains a provision that could allow U.S. global warming pollution to exceed the supposed emissions “cap” by 10 percent — and “make up” for these additional emissions by purchasing several billion more tons of carbon offsets.

Every climate bill, in the U.S. and abroad, contains provisions limiting how high carbon prices established by the policy can rise. The Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) is no different. As the Breakthrough Institute previously reported, ACES would allow polluters to purchase up to 2 billion tons per year of relatively cheap carbon “offsets,” which could allow emissions in supposedly “capped” U.S. sectors to rise by up to 9% between 2005 and 2030. The EPA predicts that, largely due to the extensive use of offsets, carbon prices will remain less than $20 per ton of CO2 for the next decade.

Many proponents of ACES have argued that U.S. polluters will not utilize the 2 billion tons of authorized carbon offsets each year. The supply of credible offsets is limited, they say, and demand will eventually push their price above the cost of most alternative emission reduction strategies. (For now, let’s put aside the fact that those same price pressures — and the industries and sectors that stand to profit from selling more offsets — will also be a powerful force for establishing weaker offset certification standards.)

However, even in the case where affordable offsets are unavailable, and emission allowance prices rise, ACES contains an additional cost containment provision that could allow U.S. global warming pollution to exceed the supposed emissions “cap” — and “make up” for these additional emissions by purchasing several billion more tons of carbon offsets.



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Originally posted at the Breakthrough Institute

Breakthrough Institute spent the past week analyzing the Waxman-Markey climate bill. We released several objective and transparent analyses for the benefit of our readers, exploring the allocation of allowances and the use of offsets in an effort to illuminate some of the weaknesses and strengths of the bill. This analysis was cited by Time Magazine, National Public Radio, Reuters, and the Wall Street Journal.

Joe RommJoe Romm responded to our analysis on Climate Progress yesterday attacking it as “anti-environmental,” “anti-climate-action,” and a “disinformation rampage,” declaring that Breakthrough Institute should be considered “part of the anti-environmental movement.” This follows his recent attacks on Greenpeace, Andrew Revkin, and other reputable environmental and climate advocates, as well as a two-year series of ad-hominem attacks on Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

For the record, Breakthrough Institute has a long history of advocating progressive climate and energy policy (see our history). In 2003, Michael and Ted co-founded the Apollo Alliance, the first-ever public campaign calling for a $300 billion federal investment in clean energy. In 2005, former Senator Obama introduced a proposal co-written by Breakthrough to raise fuel efficiency standards, “Healthcare for Hybrids.” In 2007, the Obama campaign adopted a $150 billion clean energy investment platform based on Breakthrough’s recommendations. And in April 2009, the Obama administration adopted Breakthrough’s proposal for a National Energy Education Act. Throughout this time we have continually advocated (see our writing page) a national approach on climate change and clean energy capable of achieving the broad transformations we need.

To support his assertion that Breakthrough’s analysis of Waxman-Markey is anti-environmental and anti-climate-action, Romm raises two criticisms. First, he claims we misrepresent the bill’s offset provisions. He states, “[the Breakthrough Institute] analysis is devoid of any analysis — or understanding — of the offset market… it is clear that the offset provisions in Waxman-Markey do not vitiate the targets. Indeed, I have previously explained why the supply of domestic offsets provision does not undermine the target.” This comes after Romm’s long effort to “debunk” carbon offsets as a legitimate climate mitigation strategy, coining the term “rip-offsets.”


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If all foreign offset provisions in the Waxman-Markey climate bill are used, the cap and trade regime would spend nearly three times more money overseas for carbon offset programs than it would invest in home-grown clean energy industries, technologies, and job creation.

Last week, our analysis showed that Waxman-Markey would, on average, invest between $6 to 9 billion annually in clean energy technology and energy efficiency between 2012-2025. These funds would be raised by auctioning a cumulative total of 8.4 billion emission allowances. This stands is contrast to the $41 billion in allowances that would be given to polluters each year, and it is far less than the $15 billion President Obama has promised for clean energy R&D.

But how do these clean energy investments stack up against Waxman-Markey’s spending on international offsets? The bill would allow polluting firms in the U.S. to finance emissions reductions overseas instead of reducing their own global warming pollution. The number of U.S. emissions that could be covered by foreign offsets every year is one billion tons, however, if too few domestic offsets are available, this number could rise to 1.5 billion tons. Breakthrough Institute analysis shows this could allow U.S. emissions to rise through 2030.

If all 1.5 billion foreign offset provisions are used each year between 2012-2025, this adds up to a cumulative total of 21 billion emission allowances. That’s 2.5 times times the allowances provided for clean energy during that period (8.4 billion). The table below compare allowances and potential funding under these scenarios, and the graph compares annual funding at an average allowance price of $15.


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The original discussion draft of Waxman-Markey included a key provision that would have required domestic and international offsets to reduce 1.25 tons of carbon dioxide in order to receive one pollution allowance equivalent to 1 ton of carbon dioxide. In other words, the conversion ratio for offsets to carbon allowances was 1:25 to 1.

However, the full version of Waxman-Markey (introduced on Friday) eliminates this provision for all domestic offsets and for international offsets between 2012-2017. The impact, according to new EPA analysis (download PDF), will be an 11% increase in domestic offset use and a 7% reduction in the price of all pollution allowances every year. The EPA writes:

The offsets provisions in H.R. 2454 differ from the provisions in the draft bill. Domestic offsets in the introduced bill have a one-to-one turn-in ratio (i.e., only one ton of offsets needs to be turned in for every ton of covered sector emissions being offset). International offsets have a one-to-one turn-in ratio for the first five years of the policy. After the first five years, five international offsets must be turned in for every four tons of covered emissions being offset…

As was shown in EPA’s modeling of the draft bill, using a one-to-one turn-in ratio for domestic offsets instead of the five-to-four turn-in ratio that was specified in the draft increases the total purchase and use of domestic offsets by 11%… The effect of that change alone is to lower allowance prices by 7% in each year.

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Just one week after it bowed to political pressure and delayed the implementation of a national emissions trading scheme, the Australian Government has announced plans to invest billions of dollars in renewable energy.  According to Bloomberg News:

Australia’s government will invest A$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion) in the development of infrastructure to generate energy from clean sources such as solar and wind power and to reduce carbon emissions.  The government will invest A$2.4 billion in low-emission coal technologies, including funding of A$2 billion for industrial- scale carbon capture and storage projects, according to its annual budget released in Canberra today. The government will invest A$1.6 billion over six years in large-scale solar electricity generation projects, the budget said.

While the Rudd Government’s 2009-10 budget is by no means groundbreaking in terms of climate change and energy, it still allocates substantial cash for worthy renewable energy projects. To add much needed renewable energy to the national grid, there is $1.5 billion to build up to four large-scale solar thermal power plants. This is supported by $465 million to establish ‘Renewables Australia’, a new body to spearhead renewable energy research, development, and deployment in Australia.

Those of us familiar with the Breakthrough Institute will notice familiar themes with these renewable energy initiatives. In addition to the proposal reflecting Breakthrough’s longstanding policy prescription for direct government investment in renewable energy, the new agency called Renewables Australia closely resembles the ‘renewable energy hubs’ that featured in the recent proposal by Breakthrough and Brookings (seeTo Make Clean Energy Cheaper, U.S. Needs Bold Research Push‘).


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By Teryn Norris & Jesse Jenkins

The landmark Waxman-Markey 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act was introduced in the House this afternoon (May 15, download PDF here), and the Breakthrough Institute has performed a preliminary analysis of how it would invest over $1 trillion in cap and trade revenue between 2012-2025. Our key findings for this period include (all numbers are approximate — download spreadsheet here):

(click image to magnify)

  • Polluting industries: 57.3% of allowances would be freely distributed to polluting industries, including 36.7% for the electricity sector, 12.3% for energy-intensive industries, 6.5% for local natural gas distribution companies, and 1.8% for oil refiners
  • Direct consumer protection: 16.5% of allowances would be used for direct consumer protection, including 15% for low and moderate-income families and 1.5% to benefit users of home heating oil and propane
  • Energy efficiency and clean energy technology: 12.2% of allowances would be used to fund energy efficiency and clean energy technology development and deployment
  • Adaptation and technology transfer: 4.7% of allowances would be used for domestic and global climate adaptation and technology transfer
  • Workforce development: 0.6% of allowances would be used to fund worker assistance and job training
  • Deficit reduction and other: 8.6% of allowances would be used to fund deficit reduction and other public purposes

How much money would these allocations translate into? That depends on the average price for each pollution allowance — the EPA’s initial price estimate was approximately $13-17 per allowance, so we will assume an average price of $15 per allowance. The allocation would look like this (click images to magnify):


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As sweeping climate and clean energy legislation is readied for debate in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, details are emerging on the deals and compromises struck between the bill’s architects, Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) and the group of reluctant swing members of the committee who hail largely from states reliant on coal and heavy industry.

The “breakthrough deal” struck between Waxman, Markey and the swing E&C Committee Dems will enable a full subcommittee markup of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) beginning Thursday and likely proceeding through next week (markup = votes on a series of amendments on the proposed bill followed vote to pass the bill out of (sub)committee). The deal apparently involves a series of concessions that either incrementally weaken the objectives of the bill or give free greenhouse gas pollution permits to utilities and heavy industry in order to blunt the impact of the proposed cap and trade program on these sectors of the economy.


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