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US Senators Seek To Advance Consenus Climate Change Bill January 30, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–Key U.S. senators on Tuesday expressed strong interest in moving forward on a consensus climate change bill, even though experts say advancing anti-global warming legislation this year will be difficult.

Despite the intimidating task ahead, senators – including several widely seen as presidential candidates in 2008 – said they are confident Congress can act on a bill soon.

“We know what’s happening. The science is clear. The planet is getting warmer,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who now heads the Senate’s environmental policy panel. “I believe we must act now to address global warming.”

Boxer made her comments at the panel’s first hearing on climate change, where several senators – both Republican and Democratic – touted a cap-and-trade program as the best way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses.

Still, a few Republicans like Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., maintained that carbon caps would hurt the U.S. economy. Inhofe, a staunch climate skeptic and former head of the committee, argued that thousands of scientists see no link between man-made gases and climate change.

He also criticized former Vice President Al Gore, who has worked aggressively to put a spotlight on the issue of global warming through his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

“Al Gore still thinks he can use climate change and global warming – that’s his ticket to the White House. That’s what he thinks is going to get him there,” Inhofe said.

However, most senators at the hearing argued in favor of advancing legislation to address global warming concerns.

“I do believe in this Congress we can adopt climate change legislation,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

Speaking to reporters, Lieberman noted that a solid first step could be to adopt a bill that would focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

“That would be a welcome first step,” Lieberman said of a power plant-focused climate change proposal.

There has been some concern that even if Congress meets the difficult task of passing legislation to address global warming, President George W. Bush might refuse to sign it into law. The president has opposed proposals that would cap emissions of carbon dioxide, widely seen as a global-warming culprit.

Still, Lieberman expressed optimism that Congress could approve legislation that would solely reduce emissions from power plants and that the president would sign the electricity sector-focused bill.

Lieberman is, meanwhile, sponsoring a bill with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that would reduce emissions in various sectors, including the transportation, industrial and power sectors.

He had good things to say about efforts by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., to draft a climate change bill that would solely focus on reducing emissions in the electric utility sector.

Carper and Alexander plan to introduce the bill next week. The senators say the bill, the Clean Air Planning Act, would affect about 40% of the carbon dioxide produced in the U.S.

Similarly, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., backs a power-sector focused approach.

“I believe we’ve got to tailor a cap-and-trade program for each industry,” she said. “I don’t think you can do it economy-wide with a cap. We have to do it industry by industry.”

Still, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said “the preferential policy” would be an economy-wide cap-and-trade program.

He also noted that it’s unclear if a meaningful climate policy could pass the Senate.

“I don’t think we know yet whether we can design a proposal that has at least 60 senators in favor. That’s what we’re working on,” he said, referring to the number of votes needed to overcome attempts to block legislation through filibuster.

House leaders, who have already announced plans to advance a climate change bill by July 4 are likely to move faster than the Senate, Bingaman added. “The House looks like it’s on a pretty fast track.”

Tuesday’s hearing was a critical part of Boxer’s effort to find common ground on climate change policy, a priority for the new Democratic-led Congress.

Some scientists and environmentalists argue that legislation is needed as soon as possible to prevent rising sea levels, droughts and wildfires that could come if the Earth’s temperature continues to rise because of heat-trapping pollutants emitted from cars, industrial facilities and power plants.

Already this year, a range of competing climate change bills has been introduced in Congress, from moderate to ambitious, and there’s no clear agreement yet on which approach has the most support.

The range of proposals indicates that consensus on the issue could be elusive, supporters and critics said.

Two analysts at Stanford Group Co. said the outlook for Congress reaching consensus on a new federal climate program anytime soon was cloudy.

“Carbon control proposals now proliferate,” said analysts Christine Tezak and K. Whitney Stanco in a research note. “We don’t think any of this is going anywhere fast anytime soon – meaning this Congress. If the Democrats can’t agree, the odds of bills getting through either chamber seem to get longer, not shorter.”

By Maya Jackson Randall, Dow Jones Newswires

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