MURKOWSKI AND STEVENS INTRODUCE MAJOR CLIMATE CHANGE LEGISLATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alaska Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski today joined a bipartisan group of six senators in introducing major legislation to address global climate change by reducing carbon emissions, encouraging technological innovation, and developing alternative fuels.
The Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007, sponsored by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), would establish a “cap and trade” program which sets annual targets for carbon emission reduction. Carbon-emitting power plants and businesses would be allowed to buy, sell, and trade credits equal to their emissions to reach their target emission levels. To ensure these industries are able to meet their targets, the cap and trade program also establishes an allowance system, which would initially grant 76 percent of the credits for free and make all remaining credits available for purchase through auctions.
The cost of buying emission credits should slow the growth of, and ultimately reduce, domestic carbon output: emission levels in 2020 would be the same as in 2006; decline to 1990 levels by 2030; and fall to nearly 60 percent below last year’s levels by 2050. If other nations follow suit with similar policies, the 60 percent reduction in U.S. carbon emissions would fall within the 50 to 80 percent global reduction that a host of international scientists say is needed to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit later this century. If temperatures rise past that point, significant environmental damage could result.
"There is little doubt that Alaskans are feeling the effects of climate change more than anyone else in our nation," said Senator Stevens. "Regardless of whether these changes are caused solely by human activity, we must take steps to protect people in the Arctic. This bill would help accomplish that goal by taking a balanced and realistic approach which reduces carbon emissions without damaging our economy. In addition, this legislation would direct much-needed resources to Alaska to deal with the consequences of climate change."
“In Alaska we have been feeling the impacts of a warming climate for decades,” said Senator Murkowski. “The permafrost is melting, Arctic ice is disappearing and wildlife habitat is changing. It is responsible for us to take actions to reduce carbon emissions, as long as we can do it without harming our economy. By starting now with a program that funds and spurs technological research and development we can purchase an insurance policy against catastrophic climate effects at relatively little cost.”
The legislation would send clear price signals now that carbon will cost more in the future and would encourage new technology, alternative energy, and consumer purchases that will cut emissions. In contrast to prior proposals, such as the Kyoto Protocol, this legislation would avoid drastic economic repercussions for not meeting standards for carbon reduction.
A portion of the funds taken in from the emission credit auctions would be used to fund research and technology to cut carbon emissions. Under this plan, by 2020, $35 billion will be provided to encourage coal-fired power plants to retrofit or build new plants that can store carbon underground. That could help spur truly clean coal development in Alaska, which leads the nation in coal reserves. Funding will also be provided for cellulosic ethanol production, potentially including biomass from wood fiber, and advanced vehicle technology, such the development and promotion of “plug-in” hybrid electric vehicles.
In addition, $25 billion per year would be available to provide assistance to states to help pay infrastructure damage costs which result from climate change. This adaptation funding is particularly important to Alaska, which has been affected by climate change more than any other state. Under this proposal, Alaska would receive tens of billions of dollars starting in 2009 to cover the cost of highway and airport damage, water and sewer line repairs, seawall construction, port and pipeline repairs, and village relocation costs caused by climate-induced erosion or thawing. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, nearly a dozen villages in Alaska already face damage. Entire village relocations, costing in the hundreds of millions of dollars, will most likely be necessary.
According to a preliminary review by the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, the bill could actually help get an Alaska natural gas pipeline project built by increasing the relative value of natural gas compared to other fossil fuels.
The bill already has won the support of the National Commission of Energy Policy, AFL-CIO, United Mine Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Auto Workers, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Southern California Edison, American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Ameren Power Co., Puget Sound Energy, NRG Energy, PNM Energy, and AES Corps.
It is also supported by the following conservation groups: the American Fisheries Society, American Fly Fishing Tackle Association, American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Boone and Crockett Club, Bear Trust International, Berkley Conservation Institute, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Dallas Safari Club, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Federation of Flyfishers, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, International Game Fish Association, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, North American Grouse Partners, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Pheasants Forever, Quality Deer Management Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Texas Wildlife Organization, Trout Unlimited, and Wildlife Management Institute.