Cap and trade talk simmers before next week’s Copenhagen conference

| 11/30/2009

A climate-change summit attended by President Obama appears to have taken priority over the ongoing cap-and-trade debate occurring in the U.S. Senate.

President Barack Obama is preparing to attend next week’s international summit in Copenhagen, and the White House recently announced the president will propose an emissions-reduction target of nearly 17 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2020.

Despite Obama’s participation in the Copenhagen meetings, OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce said momentum for cap and trade within the U.S. appears to be waning.

“Climate change is starting to take a backseat to the economy and health care,” Joyce told Land Line, “though his presence at the summit will certainly spur some activity.”

Cap and trade would establish carbon-emission limits for several business sectors and is expected to cause sharp increases in fuel and diesel prices. A credit system would allow businesses that operate above limits to purchase credits and businesses with leftover credits to sell on the open market.

The House narrowly approved a cap-and-trade bill in July, and Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and John Kerry, D-MA, introduced companion legislation in the Senate in early October.

In early November, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the proposed Boxer-Kerry bill, S. 1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act for consideration at the full Senate level.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-OK, said Obama’s trip to Denmark won’t save cap and trade in the U.S.

“Cap-and-trade legislation in the Senate is dying on the vine,” Inhofe said. “It’s clear that China, India and the developing world, which will soon be responsible for the vast bulk of greenhouse gas emissions, will not accept mandatory cuts in emissions – despite entreaties from President Obama.”

Joyce said Congress’ busy schedule and next year’s impending midterm elections could mean the legislative proposals will become sidelined or limited.

“We’re seeing new polling data right now that says Americans are more concerned with the economy than climate change legislation,” Joyce said. “As we get into 2010, that issue becomes very politically volatile.”

Truck owners may find cap and trade’s potential consequences volatile.

A recent study says new and “emerging” technologies could cut greenhouse gas emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks by 40 percent. The study was completed by the Northeast States Center for a Clean Air Future and the International Council on Clean Transportation.

The technologies, however, come with a hefty price tag.

Some emissions-reducing technology highlighted in the study would cost nearly $45,000 per truck.

One cap-and-trade certainty remains for truckers, Joyce said, no matter which version of the climate change legislation is proposed.

“If approved, cap and trade means diesel fuel prices will rise,” Joyce said. “There’s no question.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer