Climate Bill Breakdown: Where Big Business Won, Lost and Broke Even

Last Updated May 13, 2010 1:05 PM EDT

The climate-change bill has arrived. True, it's missing Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of its key Republican supports and co-authors; it's likelihood of passage is next to zero. But it's here. Tah dah!

The two remaining authors of the bill, Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., unveiled their 987-page climate-change bill Wednesday, a piece of legislation that tries to take an "all of the above" approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while still making big business and Republicans happy.

Big business may not have gotten everything it wanted, but this highly complex bill gives a lot away to win support among major industries. Here's a snapshot at where they won, lost and broke even.

WON States can't set carbon limits: Big business has to be happy -- as well as some Republicans -- that the bill strips power from states looking to set carbon limit policies. This means states will be forbidden to suddenly passing stricter emissions rules. In short, this creates one sweeping regulation, good news for companies that operate in a number of different states. But Kerry is quick to point out that this doesn't mean states can't set other stricter environmental policies.

Price collar for fuel providers: This is a big deal for refiners, since they're on the hook to pay for greenhouse gases emitted at their facilities as well as for emissions from their fuel products once they reach consumers. Refineries won't have to buy carbon allowances on an open market. Instead, the legislation establishes firm floor and ceiling prices and allows refiners to purchase those allowances at the end of every quarter. Of course, Wall Street won't like this specific measure since there wouldn't be a market for buying and trading carbon allowances.

LOST Carbon restrictions: It's hard to call this a loss. After all, the whole point of a climate-change bill is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Still, it represents real restrictions on major polluters. The Senate bill requires carbon emissions to be reduced 17 percent by 2020 and more than 80 percent reduction by 2050. The emissions limits will only impact businesses that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year. That means about 7,500 factories, power plants and refineries will have to cut emissions, buy allowances to pollute, or some combination of the two. Money generated from the buying of allowances will be divvied up and used to pay down the deficit; and two-thirds will make it back to taxpayers via refund checks.

These major industries did get a break, however. The regulations won't kick in until 2013 for utilities and 2016 for manufacturers. Major polluters worried that business will go overseas, never fear! The bill includes lots of allowances -- basically free credits to pollute -- to help vulnerable industries, like manufacturing, adjust to the regulations.

BREAK EVEN Offshore drilling: Offshore drilling is a touchy subject these days. The 210,000-gallon-a-day oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico continues, and it may be weeks before BP successfully plugs the well. The bill takes a tiptoe approach to offshore drilling with two reforms: states can veto drilling less than 75 miles off their borders; and new rigs have to be studied for environmental impact of any potential spill. If any state perceives a risk, it can veto that drilling as well.

The move will hardly put a stop to offshore drilling, though. The bill also also says that 37.5 percent of revenues generated from drilling should go to coastal states. When pressed on the issue, states might just take the money and run.

Coal: It's a win-eventually-lose scenario for coal. First the not-so-great news for coal. New coal-fired power plants will have to cut emissions by at least 50 percent. Coal plants that receive operating permits in 2020 and beyond will have to cut emissions by at least 65 percent.

But it's not all bad. Coal plants will get loads of free emissions allowances in the meantime. The intent is to offset the cost of developing carbon capture and storage technology, which is supposed to help these plants reduce emissions.

Photo of earth from NASA See additional BNET Energy coverage of the climate-change bill: