Create a Climate CBO
by Nathan Empsall, Fri Apr 23, 2010 at 03:15:11 PM EDT
Reports about what will and what won’t be in next week’s Kerry-Graham-Lieberman energy bill are growing more and more troubling. Check out these articles from Treehugger and Mother Jones on the bill’s likely provisions.
A lot of environmental groups are going to support this bill on the theory that it’s better than nothing. Others will oppose it, citing the provisions that ban the EPA and state governments from acting more aggressively than Congress. They’ll say that the bill stymies further progress, and that we can do better post-filibuster reform but only if we don’t mislabel this as “progress” now. I’m not sure who’s right. I’ve been inclined to support this bill all along and have urged Senator Ben Nelson to vote for it, but these latest reports are troubling. I’ll make up my mind next week, once the bill actually drops and rumors become fact (or don’t).
It would be much easier figuring out if this bill is worth supporting if Congress had an environmental equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). I think we need a Congressional Climate Office or Congressional Environmental Office that would similarly “score” bills not for their financial cost or effect on the budget but for their carbon footprint and their environmental impacts. We already require Environmental Impact Statements for many construction projects; why not do so for bills and laws, as well?
An official climate “score” on KGL would go a long way towards helping lawmakers, energy experts, and environmentalists balance the bill’s provisions against each other and against the status quo. KGL will contain many compromises and it will contain many steps forward; a CCO could give at least one formal estimate on how the positives and negatives stack up. Whether this particular bill passes or not, it’s time for Congress to create a Congressional Climate Office to better steward the country’s landscapes and resources.
Note: I am not writing on behalf of any of the environmental groups for which I’ve volunteered and/or worked. Many would probably disagree with my assessment of KGL. This post is solely my own.