Voinovich Bill: Detailed Prescription for Doing Nothing

Steve CochranThis post is by Steve Cochran, director of the national climate campaign at Environmental Defense Fund.

Ohio Senator George Voinovich today proposed to address the rapidly escalating threat of climate change by delaying meaningful federal action to control greenhouse gas emissions, obstructing existing state programs, and allowing U.S. global warming pollution to increase for decades to come.

This proposal can be summed up in one word: bankrupt. It’s a detailed prescription for doing nothing. If you think climate change is a hoax, this is your bill.

The Voinovich Plan

The plan outlined by Senator Voinovich postpones meaningful action on greenhouse gas emissions for at least twenty years, calling for weak, non-binding emissions reduction goals, and taxpayer-funded subsidies for favored technologies.

If the subsidies failed to achieve their goal, the Environmental Protection Agency could establish a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions, but it could be suspended at the whim of the federal government, and it would come with an absurdly low $5 per ton "safety valve" (an artificial price control on emissions reductions).

Not only that, the proposal would take away state authority – confirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA – to control global warming pollution. This would negate the efforts of dozens of states across the country that have set ambitious emissions reduction targets to address climate change now.

What We Really Need

The Voinovich plan’s emissions reduction targets are current levels in 2020 and 1990 levels in 2030. Widespread scientific consensus holds that the U.S. needs to reduce emissions to roughly 80 percent below current levels by 2050 to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, and the Voinovich plan doesn’t come close.

Ambitious cuts are doable. If we start now, we can meet the science-based target with a manageable two percent cut in emissions per year. Every year of delay will require steeper emissions cuts at a higher cost to the

The Senate is expected to begin debate in early June on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191), a bipartisan bill that puts an enforceable limit on global warming pollution, and puts the U.S. on a path to meet science-based emissions reduction targets without harm to the economy.

Senators looking for an environmentally effective and economically sound climate policy need to look no further than the Climate Security Act. The Energy Information Administration reported earlier this week that the bill’s mandatory cap-and-trade system would effectively reduce emissions without impacting strong long-term economic growth in the U.S.

Senator Voinovich’s proposal is just an escape route from credible action, and leads to the same old expensive and ineffective policies that have already failed to curb emissions. It’s an attempt to block real action, and will only raise the price of fixing this problem down the road.

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