Coal-Burning Electric Utilities Still Commanding Dem Senators’ Attention

As reported here yesterday,
transportation is a close second to electric power generation in the
not-so-great race to become the nation’s fastest-rising source of
emissions.

20080604_winona1_33.jpgMinnesota roads, like this one, produce a greater share of the state’s pollution than electric utilities. (Photo: MPR)

So
as the climate change debate heats up in the Senate, it’s interesting
to see lawmakers press so hard for more valuable pollution permits to
be given away for free to the dirtiest electric utilities — while
staying comparatively silent on cutting transportation-based emissions.

From a letter sent to Senate leaders yesterday by 14 midwestern Democrats:

We believe it is essential that we strive to formulate [climate change] legislation
that equitably distributes transition assistance across individuals, as
well as states and regions and economic sectors. We urge you to ensure
that emission allowances allocated to the electricity sector – and
thus, electricity consumers — be fully based on emissions as the
appropriate and equitable way to provide transition assistance in a
greenhouse gas-regulated economy.

If the goal is to "equitably distribute transition assistance across
… economic sectors," shouldn’t the Senate climate bill distribute
more than 3 percent of its expected revenue to help states plan for cutting emissions from transportation?

That
question certainly isn’t being asked by the 14 Democrats, whose request
boils down to seeking more freebies for the biggest coal burners. As it
stands, electric utilities can expect to get more than a third of the
climate bill’s pollution allowances, while transit and local
development can hope for somewhere between the House’s optional 1
percent and the Senate’s average of 3 percent.

And it’s
worth singling out Minnesota, where both senators (Amy Klobuchar and Al
Franken) signed the freebies-for-coal letter. According to yesterday’s state pollution report
released by Environment America, transportation accounted for a larger
share of Minnesota’s statewide emissions in 2007 (35.4%) than
electricity (34.3%).

The
report found 19 other states where transportation eclipsed electricity
as a pollution producer: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Maine,
Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington,
Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, South Dakota, New York, Idaho,
Louisiana, Alaska, and California.

Admittedly, the 20 states
that produce less emissions from electricity tend to be consumers of
the power produced in coal-dependent states such as Ohio and Illinois,
home to senators that signed the pro-electric utilities letter. But
perhaps in a more "equitably distributed" Congress, senators from
states that produce more transportation emissions would be pushing for
solutions targeted to that sector of the economy.

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