The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which just passed the House in a close vote, is being seen by many energy and environmental advocates as an important step forward towards the comprehensive approach needed to reduce climate emissions and increase clean energy usage in the United States. As the Senate takes up its version of this legislation, Senators are being urged to build on the work of the House and strengthen the legislation to create accelerated reductions in carbon emissions, a faster phase out of dirty coal plants, and greater funding of clean energy sources.
The ACES bill, the first climate change bill to reach the Congress, includes the following key elements:
- Clean energy: promoting renewable energy, low-carbon transportation fuels, electric vehicles, and the smart grid and electricity transmission;
- Energy efficiency: increasing energy efficiency across all sectors: buildings, appliances, transportation, and industry;
- Global warming targets: placing limits on emissions of heat-trapping pollutants with a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050;
- Economic transitioning: protecting U.S. consumers, and promoting green jobs during the transition to a clean green economy.
Climate change legislation may also include a new lighting standard. Liz Sidoti of the AP reports:
Aiming to keep the focus on climate change legislation, President Barack Obama put a plug in for administration efforts to make lamps and lighting equipment use less energy.
“I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7% of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and businesses,” the president said, standing alongside Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the White House.
Obama said the new efficiency standards he was announcing for lamps would result in substantial savings between 2012 and 2042, saving consumers up to $4 billion annually, conserving enough energy to power every U.S. home for 10 months, reducing emissions equal to the amount produced by 166 million cars a year, and eliminating the need for as many as 14 coal-fired power plants.
The president also said he was speeding the delivery of $346 million in economic stimulus money to help improve energy efficiency in new and existing commercial buildings.
Green America (formerly Co-op America), a nonprofit consumer and business membership organization founded in 1982, is encouraging the Senate to strengthen the bill through:
- Greater funding and a faster timetable for a transition to clean energy sources, particularly solar and wind, which will reduce carbon emissions and increase green jobs.
- Retention or expansion of the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to clean up dirty coal plants.
- Reduction of allocations for polluting companies. Polluters need to pay for their pollution in order to fund increased investment in clean energy and green jobs.
- Establishment of greenhouse gas emissions caps that achieve a 25% reduction below 2005 levels by the year 2020.
- Nuclear power needs to be excluded as a clean energy source. Nuclear power is low-carbon, but with environmentally damaging uranium mining radioactive waste, proliferation potential and safety hazards, it is not clean energy.
“The world needs real U.S. climate leadership. ACES is a start, but we have a long way to go for legislation that addresses the scale and scope of the climate crisis,” states Todd Larsen, Green America’s director of corporate responsibility. “We look to the Senate to really step up to the plate. The future of our economy and our society hangs in the balance.”
House passage of ACES is seen by many as the first step toward building U.S. political will to address climate change. Strong U.S. action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to invest in renewable energy will be crucial to the global movement addressing climate change and to the success of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December of this year.