What The Senate Climate Bill Would Achieve

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THE VINE MAY 20, 2010

What The Senate Climate Bill Would Achieve

The Peterson Institute for International Economics has just put out a great assessment of the Senate climate bill, the American Power Act. Dave Roberts has a post over at Grist with lots of colorful graphs pulled from it, but I thought this drab little chart was maybe the most helpful of the bunch. It shows how we can expect different energy sources to perform under the bill, compared with business as usual:

If this thing ever passed, oil consumption would drop quite a bit, coal use would go down, and even natural gas would drop a bit (this despite the fact that the bill has incentives for natural gas, which is the cleanest of fossil fuels). Nuclear does very well. Interestingly, the bill would make virtually no difference to the solar and wind industries. But that's not too surprising—the Senate's renewable energy standard is woefully weak, and not likely to do much to improve on existing state standards. Meanwhile, here's a graph of how the bill would affect energy prices:

The impact on consumers is relatively minor—by 2030, households can expect to pay anywhere from $136 more to $35 less in energy prices each year than they otherwise would, depending on whether and how cars and trucks keep getting more fuel-efficient.

And, in fact, the Senate bill could do even better on this front. As ACEEE has pointed out, the efficiency provisions in the Senate bill would only save one-third as much energy by 2030 as those in the House climate bill. By and large, efficiency improvements can save households a lot of money, but there are a variety of regulatory reasons why power companies don't always pursue this course (this old TNR piece on the always-fascinating world of electric utilities gets into why).

Again, if environmentalists wanted to strengthen the bill, boosting the efficiency and renewables sections seems like one of the most promising routes of attack. As the House vote on the "cash for caulkers" bill a few weeks ago showed, it's usually possible to pick off a few Republican votes for these items—cutting energy waste is such an obviously sound idea that even conservatives have a hard time objecting. (Well, sometimes.)

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posted in: the vine, environment and energy, dave roberts, senate

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