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American Clean Energy and Security Act

H.R. 2454

Global warming stems from the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, primarily when we burn fossil fuels and clear forests. We are putting too much carbon in the atmosphere, which results in problems ranging from extreme heat, droughts, and storms to acidifying oceans and rising sea levels. To help avoid the worst of these effects, the United States must play a lead role and begin to cut its heat-trapping emissions today.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), which passed the House of Representatives in June 2009, sets us on the path toward curbing global warming, reducing our dependence on oil, and putting Americans back to work. Specifically, the bill:

Ensures Significant Emissions Reductions
The pollution limits proposed in the American Clean Energy and Security Act would reduce global warming pollution 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. The additional measures for tropical forest protection will achieve an additional 10 percent in reductions below 2005 levels by 2020. See UCS Analysis. See more on UCS recommendations for emissions reductions.

Creates the Ability to Rapidly Adjust Policies in Response to Emerging Climate Science
The American Clean Energy and Security Act contains a provision that requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to review technological advancements and make recommendations to the Administration. The NAS would also be charged with conducting a science review if the EPA hasn’t done it. In response to the NAS recommendations, the EPA and other agencies would be required to adjust certain aspects of the policy. If the latest science indicates that we must accelerate or deepen reductions, the president is required to propose legislative changes for Congress to consider. UCS supports this provision and recommends strengthening it by requiring Congress to quickly take up legislation to deepen emissions reduction proposed by the president, or by allowing the EPA to alter the emissions reduction requirement directly.

Enacts Complementary Energy and Transportation Policies
The American Clean Energy and Security Act takes a comprehensive approach to climate and energy policy by packaging a cap on carbon pollution with a renewable energy and energy efficiency standard. To make global warming pollution reductions more affordable, the bill incorporates additional policies to increase the efficiency of our buildings, lighting, and appliances; promote greater efficiency in industry; invest in electric vehicles; and ensure that we can deploy renewable energy across the country. The improvements in building codes and appliance standards will save consumers money, create jobs, and lower emissions. While this is a good start, UCS also supports additional clean energy and transportation polices. See more on UCS recommendations for a comprehensive climate and clean energy policy.

Funds Protection of Tropical Forests
The American Clean Energy and Security Act creates a limit on how much global warming pollution can be emitted. Companies must purchase permits from the government to emit specified amounts of pollution. This creates a financial incentive for companies to pursue clean, efficient technologies, because they can save money by purchasing fewer permits, or make money by selling their permits to other polluters. Under the bill, 5 percent of the revenue from the sale of these permits would be directed to tropical forest protection, one of the lowest cost ways to reduce emissions. Worldwide, tropical deforestation and degradation currently contributes up to 15 percent of global warming pollution—as much as every car, truck and plane in the world. This financing will reduce emissions from tropical deforestation by an amount equal to 10 percent of U.S. emissions, adding substantially to our contribution to fighting global warming and helping to save the millions of species of animals and plants that have their homes in tropical forests. This is consistent with UCS recommendations for funding to protect tropical forests.

Paves the Way for an International Climate Treaty
The American Clean Energy and Security Act provides for elements that will be essential to ensuring a global solution. In addition to demonstrating U.S. leadership on climate action, the bill commits assistance to fund international adaptation and clean technologies for developing nations. These are crucial elements in our negotiations with other countries as we lead up to the December 2009 international climate treaty in Copenhagen, Denmark. This is consistent with UCS recommendations for supporting international engagement.

Puts Americans Back to Work
The American Clean Energy and Security Act authorizes the Secretary of Education to award grants to universities and colleges to develop programs of study that prepare students for careers in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other forms of global warming mitigation. H.R. 2454 also increases the authorization for the Green Jobs Act, authorized in the Energy Independence and Security Act, from $125 million to $150 million. This is consistent with UCS recommendation for supporting job transition assistance.

Areas for Improvement
While the House bill sets us on a course to create a clean energy economy, we will keep working to ensure that final legislation achieves the greatest possible amount of consumer savings and clean energy jobs by maximizing energy efficiency and renewable electricity.

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