Early Friday evening, the House narrowly passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), a monumental — and mammoth — piece of legislation (PDF)that, among other things, aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.Reactions to the bill’s passage have been varied. Republicans, by andlarge, have been criticalof the bill’s perceived cost and complexity. As to be expected,Democrats have been broadly supportive. Greenpeace has outright deemed it a failure,aruging that the cap-and-trade scheme envisaged doesn’t go far enoughin restricting emissions over the short term. Other environmentalorganizations have been notably more positive, with the president ofthe Natural Resources Defense Council calling the bill’s passage a“dramatic breakthrough for America’s future.” Meanwhile, PresidentObama Administration has welcomed the 219-212 vote in favor of ACES:
I think this was an extraordinary first step. You know,if you had asked people six months ago — or six weeks ago, for thatmatter — whether we could get a energy bill with the scope of the onethat we saw on Friday through the House, people would have told you, noway. You look at the constituent parts of this bill — not only aframework for cap and trade, but huge significant steps on energyefficiency, a renewable energy standard, huge incentives for researchand development in new technologies, incentives for electric cars,incentives for nuclear energy, clean coal technology. This really is anunprecedented step and a comprehensive approach.
In addition to expressing his support for Friday’s vote, Obama was quick to downplay the bill’s provisions for establishing carbon tariffs, in a bid to allay concerns over U.S. protectionism. The Administration also honed in on the Senate, which is set to take up the legislation later this year — and where much stiffer conditions for passage are expected.
In the end, the problem with politcs — or, more accurately, policymaking — is that it’s a messy, imperfect process. Regardless of whetheryou think the House bill goes too far, or doesn’t go far enough, thefact remains that something resembling a nationwideenergy/climate policy has passed the first hurdle (albeit narrowly).I’ll be the last person to suggest that ACES is flawless. Butimpeccable policies — especially nationwide ones — are rare. Let’s atleast celebrate the fact that our leaders in Washington care enoughabout our future generations to engage the carbon/climate policydebate. And let’s be confident that, regardless of the challenges thatwill invevitably arise when it comes to implementation of the bill’sfinal version, our economy — our workers, our knack for ingenuity, andour appreciation for smart solutions — will rise to the occasion.