June 16, 2010 in Nation/World

EPA study weighs energy bill’s costs

Though bills would fall at first, households would pay more
Renee Schoof McClatchy
 

WASHINGTON – The energy and climate bill that Republicans call a light-switch tax would lower electricity bills, at least in its early years, the Environmental Protection Agency reported Tuesday.

The EPA study of the proposed American Power Act, sponsored by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, said that energy bills for the average household – not including gasoline – would decrease by 10 percent by 2020, rise by 1 percent in 2030 and rise by 16 percent in 2050. The increases after 2030 largely would be offset by rebates, protective plans for low-income households and other measures, the analysis said.

The bill includes provisions that would support the development of cars and trucks that don’t guzzle gas. Kerry said the overall impact on transportation costs would be negligible.

The EPA analysis is one of a number of legislative reviews that have been released or are under way. Senate Democrats plan to meet Thursday to decide whether to put the legislation or a pared-down version up for full Senate debate this summer.

Lieberman and Kerry acknowledge that they don’t have the 60 votes they would need to overcome procedural hurdles before Senate passage. Speaking at a news conference, the two senators said their bill would move the country toward energy independence, create jobs and reduce carbon pollution.

President Barack Obama recently said he would work to persuade undecided senators to support it.

Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, repeated his opposition to the legislation Tuesday. “I can’t think of anything more inappropriate than to suggest that a national energy tax is an appropriate reaction to this environmental disaster in the Gulf,” he said.

The EPA also estimated that the overall cost of the legislation would be an average of $79 to $146 more per household per year through 2050, including higher energy costs and increased prices of goods and services.

The bill would require electric utilities and large industries to pay for permits to emit heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide. The permits could be traded on a market. Oil and gas sectors also would have to buy permits in quarterly auctions but wouldn’t trade them. The bill also would put a declining limit on the amount of carbon pollution that large sources can emit. Farms and small businesses would be exempt.

“We’re not going to be energy independent unless we put a price on carbon,” Lieberman said. He said large companies say they are ready to invest in cleaner energy once they know that fossil fuel energy will be more expensive.

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