The House Energy and Commerce Committee is entangled in negotiations by committee Democrats in an attempt to cobble together a climate change bill that members of the majority party can support. These efforts have been complicated by a number of issues, with one towering over all others – the impact on Americans’ utility bills.
While details are very scarce on the bill, several items appear to be certain to be included. A national energy efficiency standard will probably be included, meaning utility customers will be paying more to fund these efforts. Implementing a renewable portfolio standard for utilities to have a certain amount of energy produced from renewable sources will also be in the bill.
The big impact would come from a cap and trade system for greenhouse gases. Under this, a carbon dioxide producer would pay a set rate for each ton produced. Needless to say, this fee would have to come from someone and that someone would be the customer.
According to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, if the fee for carbon emissions is $20 per metric ton produced Iowans will see their electric bill go up 15 percent. This amount seems slight compared to the 37% percent increase if the bill has the fee at $50 per ton.
The impact of the cap and trade system on consumers is creating a great deal of heartburn for many House Democrats. While Energy and Commerce chair Henry Waxman and subcommittee chair Edward Markey have no trouble driving up utility rates for their constituents, many of their colleagues do. Even House Ways and Means chair Charles Rangel is concerned. “Whether you call it a tax, everyone agrees that it’s going to increase the cost to the consumer,” said Rangel. “At the end of the day … if there’s nothing there to repay [consumers] for their financial expenditures, it might be difficult to fight Republicans who call this a tax.”