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Kerry Nuclear Energy/Cap n’ Trade Bill

05/12/2010

After half a year of delay, Sens. Kerry and Lieberman (sans their GOP partner in crime, Lindsey Graham) are set to release their nuclear energy/cap-and-trade bill today. Until we see legislative text, we have to comment on the broad outline made available yesterday and the additional summary being circulated among legislative staff and available here.

It’s not accurate to call this a climate bill. This is nuclear energy- promoting, oil drilling-championing, coal mining-boosting legislation with a weak carbon pricing mechanism thrown in. And it guts the EPA’s current authority to regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

Nuclear Power Incentives

At its core, this legislation is all about promoting nuclear power and handing taxpayers the bill. Consider:

– Sections 1101 and 1105 would prioritize the needs of nuclear power corporations over the rights of citizens to have full, public hearings about the risks and dangers of locating nuclear power plants in their communities.

– Section 1102 increases loan guarantees primarily for nuclear power to a jaw-dropping$54 billion. These loans are a terrible deal for the taxpayer, especially considering the high risk of default that even the government acknowledges.

– Section 1103 provides $6 billion in taxpayer-subsidized risk insurance for 12 new nuclear reactors.

– Section 1121 allows nuclear power plant owners to write off their depreciation much faster. Section 1121 also provides a 10 percent investment tax credit for new reactors.

– Section 1123 extends the Advanced Energy Project credit to nukes.

– Section 1124-6 allows municipal power agencies to derive certain tax, bond and grant benefits from investing in nukes.

Oil

Apparently oblivious to the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the legislation expands offshore drilling. In fact, all new offshore drilling, leasing and permitting should be halted.

Section 1202 allows states to keep 37.5% of oil and gas royalty money. That’s like saying because more rich people live in California and New York compared to Mississippi and New Mexico, those higher-income states should be able to keep more federal dollars raised from income taxes. Royalty revenue sharing is patently unfair – especially because the disaster in Gulf shows that an oil spill does not respect state boundaries.

Coal

Section 1412 establishes a carbon tax paid by ratepayers and collected by utilities to fund carbon capture and storage (CCS) – with no funding for rooftop solar or energy efficiency investments. This will function like a wires charge or a rudimentary feed-in tariff with coal being the only beneficiary. Section 1431 will provide valuable emissions allowances for free to coal utilities pursuing CCS – an untested, risky strategy that benefits the coal industry and is gobbling up a lion’s share of subsidies that otherwise could go to renewable energy development.

Merchant coal power plants (whose rates are not regulated) will get roughly 5% of the free allowances, which will provide opportunities for them to gouge consumers.

And while nukes and coal get lots of $$$ and guarantees, Section 1604 states that “voluntary” renewable energy markets are “efficient and effective programs,” and states that “the policy of the United States is to continue to support the growth of these markets.” This is backward: Renewable energy should be getting guarantees, rathern than the coal and nuclear industries.

Offsets

The legislation allows for entities to “reduce” their domestic greenhouse gas emissions by purchasing offsets from projects located in the U.S. and around the world. The recent offset crisis in Europe, where the offest market collapsed due to fraud, underscores the lack of accountability and transparency with offsets.

Consumer Protections

Rather than Obama’s cap and dividend plan that required polluters to pay and distribubted 80% of the money directly to families through the Making Work Pay tax credit, or the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR act which distributes monthly checks to households, the Kerry-Lieberman approach relies on distributing valuable free allowances from 2013 – 2029 to utilities, and then requiring that utilities use the money “exclusively for the benefit of the ratepayers.” But Congress won’t be defining “benefit”; rather, 50 different state utility commissions will. Some will do a great job, but most will allow utilities to structure expensive energy efficiency programs that benefit shareholders more than ratepayers.

Wall Street

It appears that Wall Street may not have gotten everything it wanted – yet. The legislation appears to incorporate elements of S.1399, which creates an Office of Carbon Market Oversight @ the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), giving the agency authority to regulate spot and futures emissions markets. It does NOT appear to include jurisdiction over offset, REC etc futures markets. It requires all entities seeking to trade emissions derivatives to register and be approved by the CFTC, and all transactions must be cleared through a CFTC regulated Carbon Clearing Organization. This is a good start to ensure that Wall Street plays no role in gambling on climate policy.

Danger remains, however, in creating carbon trading markets open to non-energy producers. Strong regulations in place today may be easily subverted tomorrow, leaving Wall Street positioned to control our climate future.

The Kerry-Lieberman bill represents a missed opportunity. By meeting behind closed doors, the lawmakers empowered corporate polluters to play an oversized role in influencing the legislation to the detriment of the climate and consumers. Barack Obama had it right when he successfully campaigned on a theme of making polluters pay and delivering benefits directly to households.

We need a bill that does not incentivize failed and dangerous technologies like nuclear power and does not enrich utilites at the expense of consumers.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. Luke Asbury permalink
    05/13/2010 3:15 pm

    This is the kind of political corruption that is destroying America. When are we going to wake up?

  2. Saundra Buskirk permalink
    05/13/2010 3:19 pm

    I have read the Kerry/Liberman nuclear enrgy and Cap n’ trade bill. They should be ashamed of themselves. All I see is letting oil, coal, nuclear and many other dirty fuels continue to pollute and not be held accountable. I also see that the taxpayers will be on the hook for this.

    Where are the subsidies for clean energy? It looks like they have gutted the bill and just left the bad stuff in it. I wonder how much money they got from BIG ENERGY? Looks to me like they got paid off and don’t give a damn about the tax payer!

  3. Michael Follman permalink
    05/13/2010 3:28 pm

    There should be no off shore drilling for oil until there are proven techniques to prevent disasters like the recent one in the Gulf of Mexico. There should also be no new nuclear reactors until there are proven techniques to deal with the security of nuclear materials and the safe transformation of the waste from reactors into a nonlethal substances. In short long term survival needs to preempt short term profits. If the latter had been the guiding principal in this bill then more money would have been allocated for sustainable energy development and not for handouts to the same old power companies. Once you know the outcomes of your decisions then you become morally responsible for those outcomes.

  4. James E. Kunz permalink
    05/13/2010 3:49 pm

    Frankly, Congress couldn’t come close to getting it right even if the new campaign finance legislation were passed. There is over $200 million of big oil money circulating through Congress as lobbyists or campaign contributions. Who represents the common citizen??

    What about the pittance Congress relegates to wind, solar, photovoltaic, hydrogen and other high tech sources? Why don’t we put people back to work in high tech and quit paying billions to the Middle East? Europe already has fully developed and implemented wind, solar and photovoltaic energy. Does anyone in Congress have any common sense??

  5. John Toth permalink
    05/13/2010 4:00 pm

    Outrageous, do these politicians not realize just how fed up we Americans are with thier sleezy deals with big business. Make no mistake they will answer at the ballot box. However while this scam of a bill plays out valueable time will be wasted doing nothing to really solve the problem that is leading to a disaster that will make even the latest gulf oil disaster look small.

  6. Jay Wolff permalink
    05/13/2010 4:45 pm

    The Senate Bill is disgraceful! If passed by Congress without significant change, it should be vetoed by President Obama.
    I suggest that all readers of this reply who agree with me, should immediately e-mail or call the White House, to erge that the Energy bill be vetoed.
    Lets get a grass root response up and running now.

    • 05/14/2010 8:25 pm

      Just say NO!! We are tired of big business running our country! No bill which weakens the Clean Air Act, or the Clean Water Act should even be considered.

      These are our resources. The Congress should be considering new ways to regulate and tax these extractive giants — the oil, coal industries.

      Where are the green energy incentives?? What are these guys doing??

      Please VETO it all, President Obama.

  7. Marcia Woolman permalink
    05/13/2010 5:01 pm

    Once again our Senate is looking backward instead of forward. I recommend that everyone who reads this contact your senators, and urge them to vote no and then ask the White House to veto this bill if it should be bought and paid for in the Senate and House.

  8. 05/13/2010 6:26 pm

    Thank heavens none of the sponsors of the KLG Holiday Ham Dinner for the fossil energy and banksters lobbies, ever got elected. The US Congress, Senate, and Executive Branch are so compromised that throwing most of them in the trash is more than appropriate.

    Concerned Citizens of this country need to go to foggy bottom now and let these crooks know just how you feel. Then go home, buy solar Pv, or a windmill, insulate your home to R65, convert to LED lighting, use ground water heat pumps for HVAC, plant a big garden, and catch all the rain water you can. Get to know your neighbors well, you are going to need each other; as our government is the barrier to real change!

  9. Horace Mann permalink
    05/13/2010 7:31 pm

    The first three letters of Joe Lieberman’s last name say it all.

  10. Robert Wagner permalink
    05/13/2010 7:48 pm

    If what Public Citizen says about this bill is true (and I believe it is) the bill should be junked. It’s not worth even trying to modify it. Every polluting interest had a hand in writing this bill. No wonder it took so long to get it out. I believe that the citizens leaving comments on this site could get together and write a better bill but do you think we could find a couple Senators not tied to the dirty energy industry to sponsor it? It’s doubtful!

  11. Mr. Jan Porter permalink
    05/13/2010 8:36 pm

    John Toth @ 4:00 is dreaming to think the ballot box will correct the corruption in Washington. If our own fear of “wasting our vote” doesn’t get us, then crooked voting machines will. Of course, he is assuming enough of us really care to even try.
    My kudos to Jack Bradin @ 6:26

  12. Charles Kennedy permalink
    05/13/2010 10:31 pm

    Kerry & Lieberman have borrowed a page from the Bush playbook. Has anyone forgotten the Clean Air & Forrest act which did the opposite? This bill should be sent to the shredder & re-used into toilet paper. At least this way it would have some meaningful use.

    E-mail & call your Congressman & tell them you will boot them out of office. It’s truly sad that we went through 8 years of mailase & the cycle continues.

  13. Fred Boesl permalink
    05/14/2010 2:53 am

    Shows what a sad state our country is in. One ran to be President, the other VP. And together they came up with this super pro corporate bill? Guess they were really thinking of the voters when they were in the primary.

  14. Judith Burke permalink
    05/14/2010 7:39 am

    What are they thinking, or are they thinking at all? I’m not surprised at Lieberman…..we in Connecticut know him for the snake he has become….but I thought that Kerry had more integrity.

    Why have we worked so hard to get Democrats elected if they’re going to act like Bushies!!!!!!!???????

  15. Orville Giddings permalink
    05/14/2010 7:46 am

    I agree with all of the above. I’m especially disappointed in John Kerry action but not surprised at Lieberman”s.

  16. 05/14/2010 9:47 am

    Nuclear power puts water vapor into the atmosphere and is a major greenhouse gas.

    One among many references is Science News, (2010) Stratospheric Water Vapor Is a Global Warming Wild Card.

  17. Barbara Sullivan permalink
    05/14/2010 11:22 am

    Once again, special interests have captured our legislators and influenced the writing of a solid bill on climate protection. I am truly disgusted that this kind of behavior happens continually on important issues. It is past the time when people like Kerry and Lieberman write bills that sound good, but don’t accomplish what is really needed to fix this country.

  18. Hattie Nestel permalink
    05/14/2010 7:11 pm

    The two Vt. Senators, Sanders and Leahy, and the Vt. Rep., Peter Welsh came out several months ago OPPOSED to ANY tax payer subsidies for nuclear power. We ALL need to support and encourage them to be VERY proactive about their opposition and hope that the Sanders Solar Rooftop Act of 2007 receives more support and actually passes in the near future.
    Hattie Nestel Citizens Awareness Network

  19. Antoinette Reyes permalink
    05/15/2010 11:40 am

    I am appauled that this is the outcome. In my personal opinion the US is one of the extremely few developed nations putting little effort / making progress in cleaning up the damage we have done.

  20. Peter Ungar permalink
    05/15/2010 1:22 pm

    It was only a few years ago that Congress responded to similar concerns with the ethanol from corn boondoggle. Those who have fallen for or are promoting the global warming scare should not be so surprised that Congress uses it as cover for a bunch of new boondoggles.

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