February 2, 2006

Senators plan climate change bill this spring

By Tom Doggett

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican chairman and the top
Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee will introduce
legislation this spring aimed at fighting global warming, but
their staff see little chance of Congress passing the climate
change bill this year.

The European Union, Japan and much of the rest of the
industrialized world are imposing mandatory cuts on emissions
linked to global warming. But in the United States, the Bush
Administration favors asking companies to join a voluntary
emission reduction program.

Sen. Pete Domenici, who chairs the Senate's energy
committee, believes the United States should take a tougher
stand. Domenici and his Democratic colleague on the panel, Sen.
Jeff Bingaman, jointly issued a "white paper" on Thursday
listing climate change issues that must be resolved before they
can write their bill.

The paper seeks answers to several key questions, including
whether the entire U.S. economy or just certain sectors should
be regulated in any greenhouse gas program.

The paper notes that no single sector of the U.S. economy,
such as transportation or industrial, makes an overwhelming
contribution to America's total greenhouse gas emissions.

"If a key design feature is fairness, then no one sector
should be singled out," the paper says. "An economy-wide
approach also allows for ease in seeking the least-cost path to
(emission) reductions through trading systems."

The paper also asked how to allocate emission-reduction
credits among industry sectors, like coal-burning utilities and
oil refineries.

In a briefing with reporters on Capitol Hill, the
lawmakers' senior staff said the public will be asked to
comment on issues raised by the white paper. They said the
committee would hold a day-long conference in March to hear
from climate change experts and industry representatives.

Domenici and Bingaman plan to incorporate the suggestions
into final legislation. Their plan already faces strong
opposition from other senators, a large chunk of the House of
Representative and President George W. Bush, who opposes
mandatory emissions cuts for U.S. companies.

Senior staff did not think the bill would get very far this
year, but would lay the groundwork for action in a future

Bob Simon, the energy committee's Democratic staff
director, said it would be "difficult" to get the legislation
through Congress this year.

His Republican counterpart, Alex Flint, said the "ground is
shifting" among lawmakers to deal with climate change. But he
would not predict the bill would make it to the president's
desk this year.

Flint said it was "inevitable" Congress would pass climate
change legislation at some point, but he could not say when.