Economic risks imperil climate bill
In the Senate, opponents focus on pump prices and tax consequences.
Seventy-four senators voted this week to begin debate on a sweeping bill to curb carbon emissions, but agreement on any point of law from now on gets tougher.Skip to next paragraph
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The terms of the debate have shifted dramatically from 2003 and 2005, when the Senate rejected previous moves to curb global warming.
Largely out of this week's debate are cries that global warming is a "hoax" or that claims that carbon emissions affect the climate are simply bad science. There's also broad agreement that Washington should increase investments in clean energy technology.
Instead, the fault line in this week's debate is the scope of the role for Washington in curbing emissions and its likely impact on the economy.
"Climate change is an issue that all of us are concerned about, but there's a right way and a wrong way to tackle the problem. And driving the price of gasoline even higher is clearly not the way to go," said Republican leader Mitch McConnell at a briefing on Tuesday.
GOP opponents say the proposed Senate bill will cost $6.7 trillion over the 50-year life of the bill and increase gas prices by anywhere from 53 cents to $1.40 a gallon by 2050, the result of which will be increased costs for American families and more manufacturing jobs sent to foreign countries.
"Unless we have the technology to make a steep and quick emissions cut that the sponsors want, this bill will do nothing but add $6.7 trillion, a tax increase on American families and workers," says Rep. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma, the leading opponent of global-warming legislation.
Supporters say the bill helps shift the US economy to a more diversified energy future and millions of "green jobs."
"Hundreds of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy have already been created by foresighted investors who see the need for clean energy that does not contribute to global warming," said Senate majority leader Harry Reid in the run-up to Monday's vote. The strong cap-and-trade system in the proposed bill could create millions more, he added.
But Democrats, too, face deep rifts within their caucus over how far Washington should move to address global warming. Lawmakers from states that produce or depend on coal for power worry that the technological advances may not come fast enough to meet the terms of the bill.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D) of North Dakota is proposing an amendment to bump investment in new technologies from $17 billion to $37 billion to "unlock the mystery of carbon capture." "If we don't do this, this bill will fail," he said on the floor of the Senate on Wednesday.
While there's broad agreement on the need for more investment in solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energies, expected amendments on the needs to relaunch a nuclear power initiative could also further splinter support for the bill.