Waxman-Markey progress hampered by farmers’ scepticism

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Wednesday reached agreement on the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which aims to set a renewable energy target of 15 per cent of electricity generation by 2021, and to create a strategic reserve of 30m barrels of petroleum products including gasoline and diesel.

The WSJ reports that it is more generous to oil and gas companies than the American Clean Energy and Security Act, aka the Waxman-Markey bill, which also includes a renewable energy target along with a carbon cap-and-trade scheme. This bill is facing further hurdles on the road to a vote in the House, having already been extensively re-worked before passing the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee last month. The opposition, coming from Democrats with rural constituencies, and is delaying the next vote. Dow Jones reports:

Temporarily hijacking plans by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to bring the
bill to the floor as soon as next week, the Democratic insurrection could
potentially unthread the meticulously woven compromise Energy and Commerce
Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., crafted to pass the bill out of his
panel last month. Given the time Waxman and his lieutenant Rep. Ed Markey,
D-Mass., are spending attempting to coax support from  reluctant Democrats, the
leadership doesn’t appear to yet have the votes to pass the bill through the chamber.

Collin Peterson, Minnesota congressman and Agriculture Committee chairman, is leading the charge for the rural Democratic representatives and was also one of 11 Democrats to vote against the economic stimulus plan, the NY Times/Greenwire reports. Much of the wariness from Peterson and those who share his views relates to the EPA’s proposed role in calculating and regulating how farms can participate in carbon offsetting practices.

Farmers have long distrusted EPA, an agency they associate with restrictive regulations or fines. For Peterson and other members of the Agriculture Committee, that distrust has exploded in recent months since the agency proposed rules, required by the 2007 energy bill, to calculate the carbon footprint of biofuels.

One of the EPA’s perceived offences is its view that corn-based ethanol is no better in terms of carbon emissions than fossil fuels.

Another motivation, writes Brad Plumer at The New Republic writes there are signs that, somewhat perversely, some farmers might be welcoming climate change in the belief that warmer weather will improve their yields, despite research to the contrary.

Related links:

Senate panel passes comprehensive energy bill (Reuters, 17/06/09)
Waxman-Markey passes committee, but what’s to come?
(FT Energy Source)
Committee reports energy bill (Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources)

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