June 24, 2009

Historic Climate Change Bill Making Its Way Through The House

House Democrats working on quick legislation to combat global warming said on Tuesday a bill that would reduce industrial emissions of carbon dioxide was showing signs of progress, Reuters reported.

President Barack Obama said at a midday White House press conference the "historic" climate change bill moving through the U.S. House of Representatives would "transform the way we produce and use energy in America."

The president said the legislation would spark a "transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet."

The bill includes incentives to encourage utilities, manufacturers and other companies to switch from higher-polluting oil and coal to cleaner energy alternatives.

House Democrats also announced Tuesday that a deal had been reached on difficult agriculture issues in the legislation that would clear the way for a vote and probable passage in the chamber this week.

Farmers won several of the demands they had been holding out for in exchange for supporting the climate bill, according to Representative Henry Waxman, a main proponent of the climate change bill in the House.

"It is quite possible and maybe even probable the bill will be debated on Friday and pass," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who remained cautiously optimistic while discussing the legislation with reporters.

The climate change debate will move on to the Senate if the House passes the bill. However, the Senate has not yet crafted its own bill and similar passage would be more complicated than in the House because Republicans could employ tactics to delay it further.

President Obama has been leading the charge for climate change legislation cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 (from 2005 levels).

Obama also announced nearly $8 billion in Energy Department loans to help automakers retool plants in order to build more fuel efficient vehicles such as electric cars and autos with improved gasoline engines.

The climate change bill would push companies to reduce their carbon emissions by encouraging the use of solar and wind energy and promoting technologies to capture and store emissions from coal-burning plants.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the government had awarded its first leases for offshore wind development off the Atlantic Ocean coasts of New Jersey and Delaware.

The broad and ambitious goals of the House climate bill have been embraced by some large U.S. companies such as Duke Energy, Dow and Alcoa, but other industries have been reluctant.

The House legislation is fundamentally flawed and would cost Americans billions of dollars in higher costs, kill jobs and will not deliver the environmental benefits promised, according to the American Petroleum Institute, which is the major representative of U.S. oil companies.

Estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showed that the House Democrats' climate bill could cost households an average $175 a year in added costs, while the poor would enjoy a $40 annual benefit from rebates and other breaks.

Additionally, Republicans had warned of $3,100 in price increases yearly and severe job losses should the legislation pass.

Obama's Environmental Protection Agency estimated an average household cost per year of $80-$111, or 22 cents to 30 cents a day.

The Justice Department was also urged by Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, an outspoken critic of the Democratic climate change bill, to investigate whether General Motors and Chrysler can legally lobby in favor of global warming legislation since both had received government bailouts.

The United States Climate Action Partnership, which has advocated climate legislation along the lines of the House bill, claims GM as a member.

Even with the new concessions to rural areas, "the core of this legislation remains the same: a job-killing tax increase that will hit every single American, especially middle class families in the heartland of America," said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner.


On the Net: