Friday, February 22, 2008

Lieberman-Warner bill WILL NOT cause Fuel Switching

As the agriculture industry thinks about getting more involved in what is now an inevitable climate change bill, there are many interests -- with agendas of their own, who are pushing hard on the ag industry to oppose the Lieberman-Warner bill. The #1 argument out there is that the Lieberman-Warner bill will "crush the economy" and "cause fuel switching" which will mean "through the roof" fertilizer prices and high energy prices for farmers.

I have tried to explain how this scenario is just not possible in the Lieberman-Warner bill -- that these nightmare scenarios are only possible when you take away the flexibility mechanisms and the offsets provisions in the bill -- WHICH IS WHAT MANY ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS WANT TO DO.

You don't have to take my word for it -- how about looking at the economic modeling done by the Clean Air Task Force which used the energy-economy model created by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration -- this is the model Congress uses to forecast the costs of various energy proposals. The model is called NEMS: National Energy Modeling System and it was run assuming a reference case representing no climate action and also run to project the costs if the Lieberman-Warner bill were to pass into law. The model's timeframe looks out over the years 2012-2030. Below are some of the key findings that this model found if the Lieberman-Warner bill were to become law:
  • No fuel switching to natural gas
  • Stable residential and commercial natural gas bills
  • Almost imperceptible macro-economic impacts
  • A future for coal in carbon constrained world
  • Robust future for nuclear energy & low to zero carbon renewables
  • Large dispersion of funds to accelerate technology deployment and help affected communities
  • GDP is only 0.7% lower in 2030 under the Lieberman-Warner bill than in the business as usual (BAU) case
  • BAU growth in GDP compared to present is 104% in 2030. Under the Lieberman-Warner bill, growth is 102% in 2030.

WHY did these findings result? Because of the many cost-mitigation and market mechanisms in the Lieberman-Warner bill [which is also the reason many environmental groups are starting to oppose the bill]. Some of these mechanisms include:

  • Strong incentives for geologic carbon capture & storage
  • Domestic and international offset market allowing up to 30% of emission reductions to be purchased at lower level than allowance prices
  • Allowances designated to cost mitigation or “transitional assistance” mitigate any residual economic impact
To see the full economic modeling study, click here

What's happening now, politically, is that the far right is starting to recognize that their days of stopping all climate bills are really limited. It may not be this year, but they can not fight the combined power of corporate America + public opinion + the next President and Congress for much longer. For many of the constituency groups in this camp, (some coal utilities, some oil), the preference is to go for a carbon tax -- since they can maintain their profit margins and avoid reducing their emissions. This option GUARANTEES higher energy costs -- and they WILL be passed on to consumers, but it creates NO opportunity to generate a market for offsets or renewable energy. All this option does is create another appropriations process in Washington where members of Congress will hand out the "carbon money" to low carbon projects. It will be a political divvying out of money that has very little to do with actually reducing emissions or promoting renewable energy into commercialization.

The carbon tax crowd is aiming to get agriculture to back down from supporting the one bill that would actually create billions of dollars in revenue for their own industry. They are trying to convince you to work against your own economic interest. Why? Because they want that money for themselves. I understand their interest -- I just want the agriculture industry to understand that its interest does not line up with the fossil fuel industry ON THIS ISSUE.

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