The Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed sweeping legislation Friday that calls for the nation's first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner, yet more costly energy.
After months of negotiations and days of intense bargaining among Democrats, the American Clean Energy Security (ACES) Act passed 219-212, fulfilling Speaker Nancy Pelosi's vow to clear major energy legislation before July 4.
"Today we have taken decisive and historic action to promote America's energy security and to create millions of clean energy jobs that will drive our economic recovery and long-term growth," said bill co-sponsor Rep. Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
"After more than three decades of being held hostage to the influence of foreign energy suppliers, this legislation at long last begins to break our addiction to imported foreign oil and put us on a path to true energy security," he added.
According to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the bill will invest $190 billion in new clean energy technologies and energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions from major U.S. sources by 17 percent by 2020 and over 80 percent by 2050 compared to 2005 levels, and require electric utilities to meet 20 percent of their electricity demand through renewable energy sources and energy efficiency by 2020.
Former vice-president Al Gore, a longtime advocate for confronting the threat of global warming, called the bill "one of the most important pieces of legislation Congress will ever pass." In a statement, he commended Pelosi and the bill's sponsors –Waxman and Rep. Edward J. Markey, chairman of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming – for having "secured an important bipartisan victory for the American people."
"This comprehensive legislation will make meaningful reductions in global warming pollution, spur investment in clean energy technology, create jobs and reduce our reliance on foreign oil," Gore stated shortly after the bill's passing.
"We are at an extraordinary moment, with an historic opportunity to confront one of the world's most serious challenges," the former U.S. vice-president added. "Our actions now will be remembered by this generation and all those to follow – in our own nation and others around the world."
On the other side, critics of the bill say the bill destroy jobs in the midst of a recession while burdening consumers with a new tax in the form of higher energy costs.
"Speaker Pelosi's national energy tax is a bureaucratic nightmare that will cost families more than ever for electricity, gasoline, food, and other products, and cost millions of American workers their jobs," commented House Republican leader Rep. John Boehner, who used an extraordinary one-hour speech shortly before the final vote to warn of unintended consequences in what he said was a "defining bill."
"This is a tax on anyone who drives a car, buys an American-made product, or flips on a light switch," he said after the final vote. "It will drive up energy costs, send millions of jobs overseas to countries like China and India, and place an especially heavy burden on rural America."
Don Bosch, who runs The Evangelical Ecologist, a blog "dedicated to the act of loving God by caring for that which He has gifted to man," further noted that bill will also affect churches and faith-based charities, who are already straining to meet the needs of those they serve amid current economic conditions.
One of the bills key provisions is mandating new energy-saving standards for buildings, appliances, and industry.
"These rules will invade every area of our lives, including the operation of churches and charities," Bosch commented.
But the credentialed environmental professional also said "[d]edicating resources to understanding and protecting God's atmosphere is a worthwhile endeavor."
"Assuming GHG (Green House Gas) regulation is done deal, national standards are a good thing," he commented Friday.
Boehner, however, says Republicans believe there is a better way.
"Our American Energy Act is the fastest route to a cleaner, more reliable energy future. By increasing environmentally-safe energy production, promoting alternatives like nuclear and clean-coal technologies, and encouraging increased efficiency, this alternative legislation will create more jobs, lower energy costs, and clean up our air and water," insisted Boehner, who repeatedly refers to ACES as the "national energy tax bill."
"Today, House Democrats made the decision to stand with left-wing special interests rather than with families and small businesses in their districts that will lose so much because of this national energy tax. The American people will not forget this vote," he concluded.