Climate Bill Passes House Committee

Posted by: John Carey on May 21, 2009

My email box is filling up with responses to the historic passage of a cap and trade climate bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee this evening (May 21). This, of course, is the first time that such a climate bill has progressed this far in the House of Representatives—and there’s every expectation that the bill will pass the House soon.

Predictably, some environmental groups are against the bill. Friends of the Earth says that the bill “is a huge letdown” with “hundreds of billions of dollars in handouts” to “corporate polluters.” (And by the way, the same email asks for a donation!).

But most of the immediate reaction is overwhelmingly positive. Representative John Dingell (D-Mich) weighs in with a gracious note (considering that he was deposed by the current Energy and Commmerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif)) commending Waxman and Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass) for their hard work, and lamenting the failure of Congressional Republicans to get with the program.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger adds that passage of the bill was urged by the Governors’ Energy and Climate Coalition, “the largest, most diverse group ever assembled,” he says, on the climate issue. The group includes 30 states and territories.

Perhaps the most interesting dynamic here is how many segments of business support the legislation. A group of companies, called the US Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), was instrumental in convincing Congress that major businesses, from General Electric and Dupont to Duke Energy and Ford, backed the idea of mandatory limits on climate change-causing emissions. Now, USCAP points out that “taking action to address climate change provides important opportunities to spur innovation and economic investment, and to strengthen American competitiveness.” In other words, it’s good for business, not bad, they say.

Ironically, the fact that so many companies are backing the bill has Republicans backed into a corner. The GOP has been forced to make a rather unique argument—bashing Democrats for being in the pocket of Big Business. Quite a turnaround!

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BusinessWeek correspondents John Carey and Mark Scott, cover the green scene, keeping on top of the business aspects of energy, the environment and climate change, as well as the technologies, policies, markets and people that are shaping how the earth's resources will be used in the century ahead.

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