Politicians and environmentalists have always been strange bedfellows, never more so than during current times. Our legislative leaders struggle to come up with a way to regulate the carbon trade, to ensure that business is, one way or the other, penalized for excess energy consumption. As the political landscape changes, we can see wild swings from one extreme to the other, as various schemes are considered to cut back on carbon emissions.
In 2009, the political landscape was such that the House of Representatives in the United States was able to pass a comprehensive raft of legislation, albeit narrowly. The American Clean Energy and Security Act included a controversial “cap and trade” scheme, somewhat similar to the Emissions trading Scheme in Europe. Despite the efforts required to pass this through the House, little has been achieved since that time in the Senate.
Carbon trade is the subject of much discussion as the spring unfolds in 2010. A trio of senior senators are hard at work crafting a bill that could at least bring some carbon trade legislation to the floor of the Senate as the year continues. Environmentalists are starting to wring their hands in despair however, as they see any real, meaningful legislation being watered down to enable a Senate passage.
There is a carbon trade scheme within new proposals being put forward by Senators Kerry, Lieberman and Graham. However, this is much different to the proposal put forth by the House of Representatives and in the beginning only applies to the power sector. It seems that there are provisions to extend in the future, however.
As the Democrats within the U.S. Senate effectively lost its ability to “steamroller” legislation through when the late Sen. Kennedy’s seat fell to a Democrat, from now forward the Republicans have a considerable amount of say in crafting climate legislation. They are known to be against a carbon trade scheme and a number of conciliatory features must be added to any legislation that has a chance of passing during the 2010 sessions.
Many have said that should widespread carbon legislation not materialize from Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency could move itself to try and regulate greenhouse gases. If EPA regulate carbon emissions, as a result of its finding that they are dangerous to public health, Republicans see this as a backdoor attempt by the administration to push reform through.
Climate carbon trade restrictions represent some of the most controversial issues for politicians. As carbon emissions are directly linked to energy use, it is felt that no progress can be made in real world terms unless energy use is restricted, efficiencies achieved and alternative energy uses considered. While some state and regional initiatives are underway or in development, another controversial element of the Senate legislation under consideration is that any federal scheme would in turn cause a state or regional scheme to be canceled.
Whether 2010 brings federal carbon trade legislation or not, it is certain that in one way or the other every business will be forced to consider its energy use, to strive for sustainability and to ensure that it operates at maximum efficiency across the board.