Notes from the First Full Committee Hearing on Lieberman-Warner

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 08 Nov 2007 20:22:00 GMT

This morning the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held its first hearing on Lieberman-Warner (S 2191).

Sens. Warner, Isakson, and Clinton were not in attendance.

Republican senators Voinovich, Inhofe, Vitter, and Craig protested the speed with which the bill is being considered, and called for more hearings and for an analysis from the DOE’s Energy Information Administration and the EPA before markup of the bill. Boxer responded indignantly to the “slow dance” approach, noting that twenty hearings were held this year on global warming and reading a statement from Sen. Warner: “This committee had the chance to hold hearings on Lieberman-McCain and it did not.”

Democratic senators Sanders, Cardin, Lautenberg, and Carper criticized the free allocation of permits to polluters, calling for 100% auction or greater allocation to clean and renewable energy producers.

Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.) focused on the lack of jurisdiction and oversight over the market entities created by the bill as a problem area.

Sen. Lieberman favorably noted that entities like electricity company PG&E get both free allocations and proceeds from the auctions.

The witnesses from WRI and the Environmental Resources Trust noted that the basic economic arguments for greater auction of permits: greater economic efficiency and a lower likelihood of market distortion in the form of windfall profits for polluters. They also noted that some degree of free allocation is likely a political necessity. The PG&E witness said he would probably not support the bill without free allocations to his company, and proposed several schemes that would increase subsidies and lower risk for his company at the expense of coal-intensive energy providers. The PG&E witness also made the observation, under questioning from Sen. Sanders, that concentrated solar plants are already competitive with new nuclear plants without government support and would be competitive with current coal/hydro plants if the kinds of subsidies the bill is planning for advanced coal technology were put instead into the renewable sector.

The minority witnesses argued for greater efforts to protect against foreign competition and argued that the short-term caps were too strict. Boxer noted their strong connections to the fossil fuel lobby.

Much more in the live-blog digest transcript.

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