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US Senate panel begins work on greenhouse gas cuts

July 21, 2005

By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Senate Republican said on
Thursday he will pursue legislation that may eventually require
U.S. industry to cut gases linked to global warming, a view
sharply at odds with the White House and many other
Republicans.

However, crafting legislation that would reduce emissions
without being too costly to the U.S. economy will not be easy,
said Pete Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.

The United States is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide,
one of several greenhouse gases blamed for melting glaciers and
rising sea levels.

The New Mexico Republican said he believes temperatures are
rising because of human activities. But Domenici faces an
uphill battle with the White House and many fellow Republicans,
who warn that mandatory caps on emissions could stunt U.S.
economic growth.

“We have too many people talking as if it were simple –
just cut emissions 10 percent,” Domenici said at the first in a
series of hearings he plans to hold on climate change. “I’m
looking for a solution but I’m not going to join the crowd that
thinks it’s simple.”

Domenici said he supports in principle a plan by the
National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), a nonpartisan
group, for a mandatory cap-and-trade system starting in 2010.

But Domenici said he wants to delay the mandatory cuts to
bring the plan more into line with the views of the White
House. President Bush supports a voluntary plan for industry to
cut greenhouse gas output per unit of economic growth by 18
percent by 2012.

The NCEP plan calls for U.S. utilities to cut the intensity
of their greenhouse gas emissions by 2.4 percent a year
starting in 2010. The percentage would rise to 2.8 percent
starting in 2020.

Plans to require cuts in U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide
have repeatedly failed the Senate.

Domenici also faces a possible jurisdictional turf war with
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James
Inhofe, who has dismissed global warming as a hoax and
questioned scientific evidence supporting rising temperatures.

“We’re not trying to usurp anybody,” Domenici said. “It’s
just that the time is now to get people like this to testify.”

Scientists urged Congress to act.

“The Earth is warming at a dramatic rate and any claims to
the contrary are not credible,” said James Hurrell from the
National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Earth surface temperatures have risen 0.7 degrees
Fahrenheit since the early 1970s and could be from 2.5 degrees
to 10.4 degrees above 1990 levels by 2100, said Ralph Cicerone,
president of the National Academy of Sciences.

Republican panelists said Congress must consider the U.S.
economy when considering potential greenhouse gas cuts. Bush in
2001 rejected U.S. participation in the Kyoto pact to limit
emissions because China, India and other fast-growing countries
would not be held to the same standard.

“You can sit in your scientific seat … and not worry
about the economy,” Republican Craig Thomas of Wyoming told
scientists. “But you can’t do that when you’re making the
decisions.”




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