Climate Change Bill Passes House

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a landmark climate change bill in the early evening hours of June 26 by a narrow vote of 219-212 with eight Republicans joining Democrats to pass the bill, according to various news reports.

The bill’s formal name is the American Clean Energy and Security Act. DTN News notes that the bill passed after a day of debate. “Democrats characterized passing the legislation as a historic day for clean energy, independence from foreign oil and new jobs, while Republicans called the bill a massive tax on Americans that would send jobs overseas and kill industries,” according to Chris Clayton, DTN’s ag policy editor.

There were several key provisions reached in negotiations with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-MN, and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-CA, according to Clayton. These include:

  • The creation of a carbon offset program for farmers and ranchers that would be run by USDA.
  • Agriculture is exempted from the greenhouse-gas emission requirements.
  • EPA’s proposed rule that factors in land-use changes overseas when calculating the carbon reduction of biofuels will be effectively shelves. EPA would not be allowed to consider indirect land-use change under the bill for at least five years and any future consideration of this provision would also require approval from USDA and the Department of Energy.

One day prior to the vote, the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) had urged its members to oppose the proposed legislation. According to ARA, the bill fell short of protecting agriculture despite Peterson’s efforts.

“Although H.R. 2454 does not directly cover agriculture under the cap, as written the bill will increase the cost of agricultural inputs,” ARA stated in a June 25 press release. “The bill does not provide adequate allowances for domestic fertilizer manufacturers to enable them to stay competitive in an international market.

“Furthermore, the Peterson amended bill has language that says regulators should consider mandating certain agricultural activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” ARA continued. “These activities include reduction of nitrogen fertilizer use or increase in nitrogen use efficiency; and manure management and disposal, including: application to fields as a substitute for commercial fertilizer.”

Ford West, president of The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), testified before the House Agriculture Committee on June 18. He provided testimony highlighting the opportunity that exists for agriculture to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and also described the ramifications to the fertilizer industry, and in turn U.S. growers, which may come as a result of implementing a cap and trade system.

The bill now goes to the Senate where it will likely face further changes.

Speaking to The New York Times about the Climate Change Bill, President Barack Obama said: “I think this was an extraordinary first step. You know, if you had asked people six months ago, or six weeks ago, for that matter, whether we could get an energy bill with the scope of the one that we saw on Friday (June 26) through the House, people would have told you, no way. You look at the constituent parts of this bill, not only a framework for cap and trade, but huge significant steps on energy efficiency, a renewable energy standard, huge incentives for research and development in new technologies, incentives for electric cars, incentives for nuclear energy, clean coal technology. This really is an unprecedented step and a comprehensive approach.”

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