Capitol Hill braces for energy/climate change ideas

| Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Political leaders in Washington DC are preparing to examine a new climate change and energy proposal this week that could add dollars to what truckers pay at the diesel pump.

A new energy and climate change package is expected to emerge this week as Sens. John Kerry, D-MA, Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and Joe Lieberman, I-CT, prepare to unveil proposed legislation in the U.S. Senate.

For a year now, several climate change ideas including cap and trade have been debated in Washington D.C., including last summer’s House approval of cap-and-trade legislation authored by Representatives Henry Waxman, D-CA, and Edward Markey, D-MA.

Mike Joyce, OOIDA director of legislative affairs, told Land Line Now Host Mark Reddig Monday, April 19, that few details about the proposed plan are known publicly, but they’re likely to include limits on carbon emissions and increased offshore drilling. Fuel taxes that could be in the form of a linkage fee also are on the table. Linkage fees tie the price of fuel to the average cost of emission permits the federal government would give to electric utilities and power plants.

“They’re trying to avoid the term cap and trade, but the reality is, what we may see is a hybrid or evolved plan meant to persuade voters that it’s a good idea,” Joyce said. “They realize the term cap and trade is not acceptable, so they may using different terminology.”

“It may not be the cap-and-trade system as originally proposed in early climate change legislation, but the intent will remain the same – to penalize polluters while rewarding those that are good environmental stewards,” Joyce said. “We want to be clean, we want to be green – but at what price? And how much is that price going to dig into some of our members’ bottom lines? That’s what we need to pay most attention to.”

Truckers depend on diesel and could be affected by these modified forms of the original cap-and-trade proposals, Joyce said, making legislation on energy and climate change important to OOIDA.

It was reported late last week that a part of the proposal might include a 15-cent increase in additional fuel taxes, though both the White House and Sen. Graham adamantly denied those reports.

As Capitol Hill prepares for this fall’s elections, the window on climate change and energy legislation may close quickly, Joyce said.

“The devil is always in the details,” he said. “When we finally do see the finished product of what these three senators put together next week, we’ll hopefully know a little more clearly how their proposal could impact truckers.”

Truckers have already been doing their part to be green, Joyce said.

“The average price of a new truck has increased $21,000 between 2002 and today,” Joyce said. “We have been doing our part in creating a cleaner environment for over a decade, complying with continued EPA standards for truck engines and equipment and encouraging the use of idle-reduction technologies.”

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com