Maryland congressmen break along party lines on cap-and-trade
Maryland lawmakers voted along party lines as the House of Representatives narrowly approved a massive energy and climate-change measure this evening.
The vote was 219-212, with 44 Democrats opposing the legislation and 8 Republicans providing the support that Democrats and President Barack Obama needed to send the legislation on to the Senate, where its prospects are cloudy.
The legislation, which includes a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is the first of its kind ever to gain approval in either house of Congress.
Democrats opposing the measure included rural conservatives and liberal mavericks. The Republicans who backed the bill included moderate Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware and Mary Bono Mack of California. The votes of all House members can be seen here.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the state's lone Republican, whose district takes in northern portions of the Baltimore metro area and extends to the state's western border, was the only Marylander to vote "No." The remaining congressmen, all Democrats, voted "Aye."
House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland, in supporting the legislation, prepared the following floor speech:
“This is a transformative moment. This is a moment to build a clean energy future for our country. This is a moment to create jobs. This is a moment to take on, at long last, a defining challenge of our time: global warming. I know that my colleagues can seize this moment; I know they can look back from a future in which America is independent of foreign oil and leading the fight against climate change and be able to say that, on this day, they were on the right side of this vote.
“This bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, is a true turning-point. It is a complex bill, but we can sum up its outcomes simply: new American jobs, less dependence on foreign energy, and a reduction in the carbon pollution that causes global warming.
“How does this bill accomplish those goals? Among its most important provisions are a requirement that utilities meet 20% of electric demand through renewable sources and energy efficiency by 2020; significant new investments in renewables, carbon capture and sequestration, electric vehicles, and cutting-edge energy research; and energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry. This bill also creates a Clean Energy Bank to fund promising energy projects across America; and it invests in high-tech transmission lines to build the essential foundation for a more efficient grid. New transmission lines, comprised of superconducting cable and other efficient wires, will carry more power within existing rights-of-way, with less land use. The result will be a more secure, environmentally-friendly grid. I worked with the Chairman and Rep. Inslee to ensure that those transmission provisions were included, because they are such an important part of a more cost-effective, energy-efficient future.
“Of course, the bill also includes the reduction of our carbon emissions by 17% by 2020 and more than 80% by 2050. We can fight global warming with the same kind of market-based, cap-and-trade solution that was so effective at combating acid rain at minimal cost in the 1990s. Global warming threatens every one of us; it will affect the kind of lives our children will lead and the kind of prosperity our country, and our world will enjoy.
“To those who complain about the cost of this bill, I answer that we are all paying the cost of carbon emissions already. The longer we wait to act, the more we will pay every year. But if we take action now, we can get jobs, growth, clean energy and energy independence for less than the price of a postage stamp a day, for each of us, according to the EPA. And with this bill passed and signed, the United States will finally be able to argue persuasively and credibly for global action on a challenge that knows no borders.
“At the same time, action on global warming will send a powerful, job-creating price signal to the private sector, spurring innovation in every part of the renewable energy economy. That is one of the reasons why the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a business coalition dedicated to fighting climate change, has argued that ‘the way we produce and use energy must fundamentally change, both nationally and globally’—and that this coming change represents an excellent opportunity for economic growth.
“And that is why another coalition of 19 businesses, including the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Duke Energy, National Grid, H.P., Starbucks, and Nike, wrote to President Obama that this bill ‘will drive investment into cost-saving, energy saving technologies…create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy…[and] will provide the predictability we need to plan for future business success.’
“It’s long been understood that acting on global warming is a moral necessity—but now, more and more of us are realizing that it makes powerful economic sense, as well.
“Madam Speaker, a future of clean energy is well worth the price. My children, my grandchildren, and the generations to come will be either the beneficiaries of our stewardship, or the victims of our neglect. I urge my colleagues to pass this bill and put themselves on the side of progress and responsibility.”
Bartlett, who has crusaded for years on the energy issue, issued the following statement:
“I’ve never voted for a tax increase and that is the main reason why I could not support this bill. The Congressional Budget Office found this bill would force a massive redistribution of $1 trillion and increase federal government revenues by $24 billion. My constituents clearly understood that the cap and trade system in this bill is a gigantic hidden tax that they would end up paying. That’s why they were overwhelming opposed to it.
“I’m a scientist and I’ve studied this issue very carefully. I agree that emissions from burning fossil fuels pose a threat to our global environment by contributing to climate change. However, our dependence upon oil, especially imported oil poses a far graver and urgent threat to America’s economic prosperity and national security.
“It is a shame that the House majority chose to pursue a purely partisan process that produced a complex, convoluted, monstrosity of a bill. It grew by 600 pages in the past three days alone. It deserves to die from the weight of the games and back room deals. This bill is a monument to everything Americans hate about business as usual politics in Washington, DC.”
Actually, the CBO, whose analysis Bartlett cited, determined in a recent report that the House cap-and-trade legislation would cost the average American family about $165 a year.
The nation's wealthiest families would pay more. The nation's poorest families would actually benefit from the measure, by $40 a year, according to the recent CBO analysis.
Bartlett, of Frederick, is a leading spokesman for the "peak oil" movement, which maintains that most global petroleum supplies have already been tapped, or will be shortly. He is promoting a "green energy" event Monday in his district.