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Warm-up for a global-warming law

Congress to begin work on a bill the next president would be willing to sign.

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In the House, Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, chair of a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, is introducing a “cap and invest” bill this week that also aims to cap emissions and use some $8 trillion in revenues expected to be collected from polluters to invest in clean technologies.

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“The chorus for change is deafening,” he said at a press conference at the Center for American Progress last Wednesday. “Today we must start the clean energy age.”

Many Senate Democrats were wary of introducing a bill identified with Senator Lieberman, who switched his party affiliation to Independent after losing his 2006 primary race and is endorsing McCain for president.

At the same time, Republicans are expected to fall out over the size of the federal role in curbing the problem. Sen. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma, who is leading opposition to the bill in the Senate, says the bill will increase household costs for an Oklahoma family of four by $3,298 a year and raise taxes on Americans by $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

White House objections pertain, among other things, to the bill’s timetable for achieving reduction targets.

“The goals that it sets for carbon-emissions reductions would require a technological leap to achieve those reductions, but does not have at all a realistic time frame for allowing technological advances to emerge,” says White House deputy press secretary Tony Fratto. The president also opposes “burdensome new requirements” and “extremely high costs.”

In an April 16 address on global warming, Bush announced a new national goal: to stop the growth of US greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, by accelerating the development of new technologies.

Meanwhile, critics of the bill aim to discourage Republicans from breaking with the White House on the issue. “The economic consequences are devastating,” says former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) of Pennsylvania, now president of the conservative Club for Growth, which launched a TV and radio ad campaign against Democratic senators in Montana and West Virginia and Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, who are seen as likely to back a cap-and-trade system.

Democrats don’t expect to pass this bill,” says Mr. Toomey. “They want to demonstrate to their core constituents that this is what they want to do and Republicans won’t let them. It will be a useful political ploy for them.”

Last week, the National Science and Technology Council and the US Climate Change Science program released a long-awaited assessment of the effects of climate change on the United States. The report concluded that there is already evidence of sea-level rise and an increase in hurricanes, forest fires, insect outbreaks, and heat waves.