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Should You Always Bet ACES?

One of the most important pieces of legislation of my lifetime is progressing through the House right now.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) passed the Energy and Commerce Committee last night on its way to a full House vote, probably by July. The bill is important on a couple different levels: for its goal of reducing U.S. emissions of global-warming gases by more than 80% over the next 40 years, and for the profound effect working to achieve this goal will have on American business. We’re talking about potentially the biggest ecological and economic impacts ever triggered by the government.

The legislation’s lynchpin – what Republicans have been trying to pull from the bill – is a cap-and-trade system, whereby overall U.S. emissions and individual companies’ emissions are capped, with an allowance for those companies that exceed their cap to buy overages from those companies that are under their cap.

This bill is Obama’s baby. It was a key rallying call during his campaign, and he responded to the latest news with, “We are now one step closer to delivering on the promise of a new clean energy economy that will make America less dependent on foreign oil, crack down on polluters, and create millions of new jobs all across America."

So we know where Obama stands. And many green organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, the National Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, stand with him.

However, also in line with supporting the bill are some not-so-green groups like Shell, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy and DuPont, which makes one wonder: How is it that suddenly these groups with long histories of conflicting interests are banding together? And are we really OK with backing an environmental policy backed by companies with such sullied pasts?

Greenpeace is among those answering with a resounding no. They say the targets “are far weaker than science says is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change … and far less ambitious than what is achievable with already existing technology.”

So what’s going on? It appears it may be as simple as both sides of the issue making compromises – on the one hand, you have a bunch of green groups who understand how difficult it is to get environmental policy passed and see the promise of this one, despite it’s shortcomings, and are hitching their wagons to it as the best realistic solution, while on the other hand, Big Biz sees Obama, his followers and their inexorable green groundswell that is going to affect change sooner or later so they may as well embrace this now before something comes along they’re really not going to like.

Unfortunately in cases like this, you can end up with watered down mush of a law that sacrifices viability in the name of pandering. The Washington Post has a column that nicely sums up the problem.

So, gamblers of the Captivate universe, what do you think? Play the ACES or wait for a better hand?

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“Should You Always Bet ACES?”