It seems that news on the behind-the-scenes dance in the House in an effort to bring major energy and climate change legislation to a floor vote by Memorial Day emerges every few hours, changing pundits’ predictions and analysis. Even so, this morning’s article by E&E contained enough interesting tidbits to warrant highlighting it here.
In short, Energy & Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman has set his goal to produce an amended draft of ACES this week, and intends to stick to his Memorial Day deadline, although it remains unclear whether the markup will begin in the full committee or the Energy & Environment Subcommittee.
E&E reports that lawmakers are focusing on finding consensus in four critical areas: targets and timetables for domestic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions (latest prediction: 14% cut below 2005 levels by 2020); distribution of allowances (latest prediction: at least some allocation during the first 10 to 15 years of the program); use of offsets to ease industrial compliance costs; and a nationwide renewable electricity standard (Waxman has apparently revised his 2025 target from 25% to 17.5%).
E&E also reports on lawmakers’ discussions of alternatives and compromises, most interestingly the idea of coupling cuts in CO2 with increases in drilling. This controversial idea was floated by an unnamed senior Obama official to a reporter for The New Yorker. As the New Yorker reports, the idea is a "grand bargain" energy deal which would include a "’serious’ and ‘short term’ increase in domestic production — perhaps opening up for oil exploration places like the waters off the coast of California—that would appease the “Drill, baby, drill” crowd, while also adopting a cap-and-trade plan that could take effect one or two (or more) years after 2012, which is when Obama’s current plan would start." The official characterized it as "something like T. Boone Pickens and Al Gore holding hands on a broad compromise."
While Administration officials have not provided any more details and I have seen no reports that Waxman would include such changes in ACES, the move could come from elsewhere within the House. E&E quotes House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall as saying that "it’s certainly my feeling that this is the time to explore those options of exploring oil and gas drilling under protection of certain sensitive areas."