Reasons to Pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act—Part One

Senators opposed to the Clean Energy Jobs Act are ignoring the bill’s benefits to Americans, writes Daniel J. Weiss.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, above, testified last week that the Senate and House global warming bills were so similar that they will likely have the same impact on costs, energy use, and other variables. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, above, testified last week that the Senate and House global warming bills were so similar that they will likely have the same impact on costs, energy use, and other variables. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

On November 3, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to begin debate and vote on the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, S. 1733, sponsored by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA). At this writing it appears that the committee’s Republican members plan to boycott the debate and votes, thus denying a quorum necessary for these deliberations. These members are concerned that there has been inadequate analysis of S. 1733.

However, this overlooks the fact that S. 1733 is very similar to the House-passed global warming bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, H.R. 2454. The latter bill has received extensive evaluation and scrutiny from a number of government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Congressional Budget Office, and Energy Information Administration. On October 27, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified before the Senate Environment Committee that the two bills were so similar that they will likely have the same impact on costs, energy use, and other variables. She said:

“Earlier this year, EPA ran the major provisions of the House clean-energy legislation through several economic computer models. When it comes to the specifications that the models can detect, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act is very similar to the House legislation. Nevertheless, EPA has examined the ways in which the Senate bill is different and determined which of the conclusions reached about the House-passed bill can confidently be said to apply to the Senate bill as well.”

In other words, the updated EPA analysis of the Clean Energy Jobs Act that is based on its assessment of the American Clean Energy and Security Act provides an accurate portrait of the Senate bill’s projected impacts. The more in-depth analysis desired by the dissenters would not shed additional light on S. 1733’s estimated impacts. Opponents of the bill are using this as an excuse to block the Clean Energy Jobs Act that they oppose regardless.

Their real agenda is to block action on clean-energy jobs legislation. Such efforts would please big oil companies and other special interests who are spending millions of dollars to block this bill. For instance, the New York Times reports that “The oil and gas industry in the third quarter outspent all of the other sectors lobbying on climate… Exxon Mobil Corp. led its sector with $7.2 million in lobbying work, more than the total of the entire alternative energy sector.”

While the obstructionists attempt to block progress, they will also stop many provisions that would benefit Americans. The list below describes a number of important benefits that government and academic analyses determined about ACES that also apply to the Clean Energy Jobs Act. This list is part one, with more reasons to follow. They provide ample evidence for senators planning to block consideration of the Clean Energy Jobs Act to reconsider, and allow this critical legislation to move forward.

1. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will enhance national security

In 2007, the Military Advisory Board of CNA—a distinguished panel of retired high-ranking military officers—determined that global warming posed a direct threat to the United States’ security. Their conclusion was that “projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security… Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.”

On October 28, 2009, Former Senate Armed Services Committee Chair John Warner (R-VA) testified before the Senate Environment Committee, urging “this committee to take action [on climate change].” He warned that “If left unchecked, global warming could increase instability and lead to conflict in already fragile regions of the world. …We ignore these threats at the peril of our national security.”

Warner noted that the Clean Energy Jobs Act “has established a beachhead. Now is the time for Congress to move forward.”

2. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will create jobs

The House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act would create a net of 1.9 million jobs, according to a new state-of-the-art economic model developed by the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Illinois, and Yale University.

The study predicted that from 2010 to 2020, H.R. 2454 would lead to:

  • A net increase of up to 1.9 million jobs.
  • Growth in average real personal income per household up $1,175 compared to business as usual.
  • A higher gross domestic product of up to $111 billion higher, which is a .7 percent increase compared to doing nothing.

These findings are consistent with “The Economic Benefits of Investing in Clean Energy” by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts and sponsored by the Center for American Progress. This study projected that H.R. 2454, combined with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, would produce a net of 1.7 million clean-energy jobs.

Since S. 1733 is very similar to ACES, it is a safe bet that it too would create a substantial number of jobs and spur additional economic growth.

3. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will increase American competitiveness

A book about the last eight years of our government could be called “While America Slept.” We have done little to invest in the development, commercialization, or production of the clean-energy technologies that a carbon-constrained world will want. Meanwhile, many of our foreign competitors—Germany, Japan, China, Spain, and other nations—have invested heavily in them. The United States went from making nearly half of the world’s solar photovoltaic cells to making 10 percent of them, while China is now the leader.

Venture capitalist John Doerr and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt warn, “There is still time for us to lead this global race, although that window is closing. We need low-carbon policies to exploit America’s strengths—innovation and entrepreneurs.”

CAP President and CEO John Podesta testified about competitiveness measures in the Clean Energy Jobs Act before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on October 29. He noted that the Clean Energy Jobs Act puts a price on carbon pollution, which would

“…level the playing field between the prices of dirty and cleaner energy sources … [and] combined with companion measures before the Senate, would create a clean-energy investment program that would cut greenhouse gas pollution, spur clean-energy technology innovation, create new jobs, and increase American energy independence.”

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote that reducing global warming pollution would boost competitiveness and provide an economic stimulus.

“A commitment to greenhouse gas reduction would, in the short to medium run, have the same economic effects as a major technological innovation: It would give businesses a reason to invest in new equipment and facilities even in the face of excess capacity.”

4. The EPA finds the Clean Energy Jobs Act is affordable

Because the Clean Energy Jobs Act is very similar to ACES, EPA’s analysis determined that “the impacts of S. 1733 would be similar to those estimated for H.R. 2454.” Most importantly, EPA found that “the average loss of consumption per household will be relatively, on the order of hundreds of dollars per year.” In fact, EPA estimates the average annual household cost of H.R. 2454 to range from $84 to $110 in 2020.

EPA concluded that differences in the bills produce “relatively small differences in estimated costs and may even cancel each other out.”

5. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will save oil

The National Wildlife Federation, using data from the Energy Information Administration, estimates that ACES would reduce oil use by the equivalent of 590,000 barrels of oil per day in 2020, rising to 948,000 fewer barrels per day in 2028. From 2012 to 2030, the United States would use 4 billion fewer barrels of oil, and save $658 billion dollars. This is a savings of $5,600 per household.

The American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy estimates similar oil savings due to ACES. It predicts that Americans would consume 640,000 fewer barrels per day in 2020, and 1.4 million barrels per day less in 2030. In addition to reducing global warming pollution, lower oil use would enhance our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. It would also shrink the dollars sent to other countries to buy their oil—often from unfriendly regimes. These funds could be used more productively at home. In 2008, the United States spent an estimated $1 billion per day buying foreign oil.

6. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will produce income for farmers

Both the Clean Energy Jobs Act and ACES provide an opportunity for farmers to increase their income by sequestering carbon pollution in their land via farming practices. EPA’s analysis found that ACES would create up to nearly $19 billion annually in net benefit to farmers from offsets. This is an average of $9,500 per farm. The Senate version would allow 50 percent more domestic offsets, which creates an even bigger opportunity for farmers.

The offsets program enables polluters to pay farmers or others to capture or store carbon pollution instead of reducing their own emissions. Since such offsets can be cheaper, they can reduce pollution at a lower cost. The offsets must be measurable, additional, and verifiable. Farmers can create offsets by employing farming practices that store carbon in the Earth, such as no till plowing, erosion prevention, soil conservation, reduced tillage, planting perennial trees and shrubs, utilizing rotational grazing and methane capture with livestock, applying less fertilizer, and restoring watersheds.

According to Ohio State University’s Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, agricultural lands have the potential to store the equivalent of one-third of the carbon pollution produced in the United States. The Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases notes that “increasing soil carbon through soil carbon sequestration improves agricultural soil quality, fertility, and productivity…while reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture evaluated ACES’s impact on farm income. In the short run, it would have less than one cent per dollar impact on net farm income. USDA notes that “Other studies…find that H.R. 2454 leads to higher agricultural incomes, even without offsets.”

The Agricultural Carbon Market Working Group also predicts a more profitable future for agriculture under a policy that reduces global warming pollution. “Analysis indicates the increase in farming income from offsets, biofuels, and commodity prices resulting from a cap-and-trade system more than offsets any potential increase in the price of fuel, fertilizer, or other inputs for the agricultural sector,” the organization has reported.

Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress.

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Daniel J. Weiss

Senior Fellow