On Wednesday, before President Obama answered reporters' questions about his new health care plans, he took a moment to praise House Democrats "who've made such extraordinary progress in reaching a deal on comprehensive energy reform and climate legislation."
I echo Obama's praise. He was referring to the fact that Rep Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is close to a deal on a draft bill that move America to a clean energy future, create millions of jobs and whole new industries in America, and reduce global warming pollution.
The past few weeks of negotiations have been tough, but Waxman has addressed the concerns of key legislators on how to craft a bill that the 59-member committee can approve.
Judging from what Waxman said on Tuesday night, several key issues have been agreed among Committee Democrats, and Waxman is confident the bill will pass out of Committee next week and head to the House floor for a vote.
The working draft now:
• Creates a cap on carbon emissions--requiring a 17 percent reduction in the pollution that causes global warming by 2020, and 80 by 2050
• Sets a timeline for implementing carbon-capture-and storage technology for new coal plants
• Calls on all states to generate 15 percent of their electricity demand from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020 and to reduce energy use by 5 percent by 2020 by improving energy efficiency
• Establishes a system for distributing allowances to release carbon pollution that includes a mix of auctions and free allocations designed to benefit consumers and the competitiveness of U.S. industries
Although the bill contains compromises, the legislative process is by its nature one comprised of multiple interests. The top priority for NRDC remains setting firm limits on carbon pollution that will unleash energy investments that take us down a cleaner energy pathway. This bill will get us moving in that direction.
It also sends a message that the world has been waiting to hear. In the past few months, I have met with various international leaders, from Minister Xie Zhenhua, the lead climate negotiator for China, to Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister of the environment. Each one of them has asked me if Congress is serious about addressing climate change.
After years of delay due to big oil and other special interests, Congress is finally moving forward and fulfilling President Obama's vision of America's clean energy future. Now let's get this through the committee and to the floor. More work lies ahead.