Energy and climate change legislation recently unveiled by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) last month would cut energy bills, decrease emissions and create as many as 540,000 jobs per year though 2030, according to a pair of studies released last Tuesday by the senators.

The American Power Act seeks to encourage the construction of more nuclear power generation, create special funding programs for the development and deployment of carbon capture, sequestration and conversion technologies, establish performance standards for new coal-fired power plants, and promote the use of alternative fuel vehicles (see NGI, May 17).

An analysis of the legislation performed by the ClimateWorks Foundation found that it would decrease emissions 45% by 2030, create 540,000 jobs annually and decrease utility bills an average of $35 each year through 2020. The legislation would cause no change in gross domestic product through 2030, according to the analysis.

The study predicts a transition to low-carbon energy sources and energy efficiency in response to carbon pricing, incentives linked to carbon allowances and supporting efficiency standards.

"The economic implications of this energy transition are complex, but the model points to investments in energy efficiency and new power sources as a primary stimulant of economic activity, particularly employment," according to Climate Works. "In this way, the cap drives job gains in many sectors, including manufacturing, construction, services, health and trade."

By 2030, the legislation would drive a transition away from conventional coal power plants to efficiency, carbon capture and storage, renewables and nuclear, according to the Climate Works study. The price on carbon, which rises over the time period of the analysis, is the critical force behind the shift in power mix.

A separate economic analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the legislation would decrease residential energy bills through 2030 and have minimal impact on energy costs through 2050.

"This definitive analysis proves that the American Power Act will decrease energy bills for families and protect consumers while offering the most effective cost containment measures of any previous climate legislation," Kerry and Lieberman said in a joint statement. "The results of inaction speak for themselves as we send $100 million a day to Iran and our waters and coastlines are ravaged by the spill in the Gulf."

The EPA study did little to sway critics of the Kerry-Lieberman bill.

"Bottom line: the more expensive it is to do business in this country, the less productive and competitive our economy will be," said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research. "Mandating the use of expensive energy and artificially increasing the price of coal, oil and natural gas will only further harm our already struggling economy."

Pending energy and climate bills have been stalled in the Senate for some time. The Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted out an energy bill a year ago (see NGI, June 22, 2009). Earlier this month Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) introduced an energy and climate change bill that he said would focus on vehicle efficiency and energy efficiency to decrease national energy consumption, slice foreign oil consumption, reduce average residential electric bills and cut greenhouse gas emissions (see NGI, June 14). The House passed a sweeping climate change and energy bill nearly a year ago (see NGI, June 29, 2009).

President Obama, who recently stressed to congressional leaders the need to pass energy legislation, renewed his call in his first Oval Office address last Tuesday night (see related story).

"When I was a candidate for this office, I laid out a set of principles that would move our country towards energy independence," Obama said in his televised address. "Last year the House of Representatives acted on these principles by passing a strong and comprehensive energy and climate bill -- a bill that finally makes clean energy the profitable kind of energy for America's businesses.

"Now there are costs associated with this transition. And there are some who believe that we can't afford those costs right now. I say we can't afford not to change how we produce and use energy, because the long-term costs to our economy, our national security and our environment are far greater."

Obama this week will bring together a bipartisan group of senators who have worked on energy and climate change legislation, including Kerry, Lugar, Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), "to take the best ideas from all of the legislation to address it on a comprehensive basis," according to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

"We're going to take up energy legislation in the Senate and we think we can get it done," Emanuel said on PBS's Charlie Rose show last Tuesday night. "If we were starting flat footed that would be one thing...[but] we're already on the 50-yard line, having gotten it through the House."

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