Guest editorial: Matheson comments on energy vote
On Friday I voted no on the Waxman/Markey energy bill. Here is what I said on the House floor and how I feel about that bill.
The two great energy issues our generation faces right now are domestic energy security and climate change. These issues deserve our active attention, and they deserve action.
Unfortunately, the bill we were considering on Friday does not appropriately address these issues.
Some continue to argue that climate change is not happening. In fact, scientific consensus has clearly been established that climate change is a very real, significant problem and we need to determine an effective way to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
However, this legislation had problems.
The early-year carbon reduction targets assume an aggressive pace of new technological development that may be unachievable. These targets received little attention in the debates that took place on this bill.
I remain concerned that this energy bill will result in unfair regional wealth transfers. The one-size-fits-all renewable electricity standard is not the right approach to address climate change. It is an add-on without a purpose. Data shows that the renewable targets in this bill are only slightly better than business-as-usual. So why are we bothering to dictate these standards when we should encourage the 15 states that currently do not have renewable energy targets to find something workable for their communities?
The bill's distribution of emission allowances also creates regional inequities. The "50-50" formula in the bill gives extra, unneeded allowances to utilities with lower fossil fuels resources, and less to utilities with greater reliance on fossil fuel resources. Those regions that receive excessive allowances would sell those allowances to other regions of the country that received less.
With respect to carbon markets, this bill overreaches and will effectively destroy the derivatives market. Many people seem to confuse the different types of markets that exist. The futures market contains listed derivatives-these are standardized exchange-traded agreements.
There is also a market for cleared derivatives, which are standard contracts that are privately negotiated but booked with a clearinghouse as a counterparty.
And finally, you have the over-the-counter derivatives market where people negotiate deals to fit the needs of everyone ranging from utilities, to airlines, to banks, and finally, regular investors. This is a very complicated financial system and while it is clear that we are not appropriately regulating this market today, we should also avoid gutting the market altogether.
I think there is a reasonable way to structure the new carbon market and to address deficiencies in the commodity markets. The provisions in the bill were not the right approach, and these provisions of the bill were never really debated in a House committee hearing.
There are also some changes made to the offsets section which are troubling to me. I have been supportive of the effort to build a strong, accountable offsets program and I am sorry to see that this bill allows USDA to try to establish a much looser, less effective program.
This is short-sighted because unless offsets signify real, verifiable carbon reductions, they will be worthless. This is problematic because buying and using offsets is much cheaper for businesses than it is to buy allowances.
I have been advocating for the inclusion of transmission language in order to build much-needed infrastructure. However, this bill only addresses the Western Interconnection, not the whole country. That doesn't get at the underlying problem which is the lack of electricity transmission capacity across the nation.
I wish this bill had taken an approach similar to the one the Senate is considering.
Finally, the issue of energy independence calls for additional items that are not included in this bill. In the long run, technological advances will provide new options to help this country gain a more secure, stable energy profile. In the interim, we need policies that keep all options on the table for the development and use of conventional energy sources.
As a result of all of these concerns, I voted against this legislation. However, I will continue to work on the important issues of climate change and energy independence.