House Passes Landmark Climate Change Bill, Now Heads to Senate (Reuters)

The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a sweeping climate change bill today that will significantly change the way Americans use and produce energy.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), which passed on a 219-212 vote, now moves to the Senate, where experts predict another battle.

Environmental groups hailed the bill's passing.

"This vote was a major hurdle, and we've cleared it," Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said in a prepared statement. "President Obama can walk into the G8 summit of world leaders in Italy next week with his head held high. Now we have momentum to move and improve legislation in the Senate and put it on President Obama's desk so he can go to December's international summit in Copenhagen with the full backing of the Congress and the American people."

Before the vote, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues "we cannot hold back the future." She offered four words that she said represent the meaning of the legislation.

"Jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs," she said.

Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit Green For All, which was a driving force in securing green job training funds in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, called the bill a significant step forward in creating a more equitable and secure country. The bill includes a $860 million allocation to the Green Jobs Act.

“This legislation will not only position America at the forefront of the clean-energy economy but will also create jobs and opportunities for communities that are too often at the margins - and the smokestack end - of our current economy,” Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins said in a statement.

Coalitions of labor and environmental groups praised the House of Representatives for approving key investments in domestic clean energy manufacturing to be part of the Waxman-Markey legislation.

“The American Clean Energy And Security Act is a giant leap forward to establish energy security, reduce harmful carbon emissions,and create millions of green jobs that will put our citizens back to work and get our economy back on track,” said Phil Angelides, chairman of the Apollo Alliance.

He called the inclusion of investments to help the country’s manufacturers retool plants and retrain workers for the clean energy economy “a major victory that will keep millions of new, green jobs here at home and help revive America’s long suffering manufacturing sector.”

As expected with such a heated issue, many groups came out with statements of concern in the wake of the vote. In a prepared statement, James C. May, the president of the Air Transport Association of America, said, "The nation's airlines have an impressive environmental record and are committed to working with the administration to address climate change, but we have strong concerns about the Waxman-Markey bill and its punitive one-size-fits-all approach. This cap-and-trade bill creates an onerous fuel tax on the airline industry."

The bill aims to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change: 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, with other measures promising additional reductions. At its core is a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program that gives away about 85 percent of the carbon permits to utilities, heavy industry, refiners, among others, and includes provisions to shield consumers from rising energy prices.

Among the key provisions in the bill, according to House Majority Whip James Clyburn:

    • Require electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.
    • Invest in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, including energy efficiency and renewable energy ($90 billion in new investments by 2025), carbon capture and sequestration ($60 billion), electric and other advanced technology vehicles ($20 billion), and basic scientific research and development ($20 billion).
    • Mandate new energy-saving standards for buildings and appliances, and promote energy efficiency in industry.
    • Reduce carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17% by 2020 and over 80% by 2050 compared to 2005 levels. Complementary measures in the legislation, such as investments in preventing tropical deforestation, will achieve significant additional reductions in carbon emissions.
    • Protect consumers from energy price increases. According to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency, the reductions in carbon pollution required by the legislation will cost American families less than a postage stamp per day. CBO calculates that the legislation will cost the average household less than 50 cents per day.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates the bill in its current form would cost American households between $80 and $111 per year, which equals 22 cents to 30 cents per day. A separate analysis from the Congressional Budget Office projected an annual cost of $175 for U.S. households by 2020.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy concluded the bill's energy provisions would save U.S. households up to $1,050 cumulatively and produce more than 300,000 jobs by 2020.