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House fast-tracks major changes on energy and climate

But how much will they cost Americans, particularly during a recession?

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Power companies are emerging as early critics of the plan.

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Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a trade group representing power companies, says, “There is an open question as to whether … the bill is based on sufficient energy and economic modeling.”

He cites the bill’s “silence” on how emissions permits will be allocated and notes that the recession will make “an across-the-board increase in energy prices all the more difficult.”

Business and environmental groups have been gearing up for an overhaul of US energy policy for years.

To succeed, the bill will need bipartisan support

But even with Mr. Obama in the White House and with Democrats holding majorities in the House and Senate, lawmakers will have to structure a bill that can cross regional and party lines, as well as win some business support, to get a bill to the president’s desk.

Early on, Democrats signaled a concern for those hardest hit in adjusting to the new law.

“It creates new green-collar jobs, creates a reliable market for private-sector investment, promotes energy efficiency with stronger fuel and renewable-energy standards,” said House majority leader Steny Hoyer in a statement Tuesday. “And it also helps businesses comply and be part of the transition to a clean energy future, which we think is absolutely critical.”

For the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), that means adjusting rebates and border controls to makes sure that foreign competitors are also held accountable for their contributions to greenhouse emissions.

'A global solution is an imperative'

“Greenhouse gases are a global problem, and a global solution is an imperative,” said AAM executive director Scott Paul in a statement. “The last thing Congress should want to do is offshore jobs and production to foreign manufacturers that have significantly larger carbon footprints, undermining the aim of climate change policy.”

Environmental groups, which generally support the broad plan, want to see how – exactly – a proposed cap-and-trade system would function.

“They haven’t worked out exact allocation schemes,” says Sarah Saylor, legislative representative for Earth Justice. “This has been the sticky piece of this legislation.”

The House Energy panel plans hearings on this draft proposal after a two-week recess that begins next week, with a goal of moving to a floor vote by the end of May.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee began a markup of energy legislation Tuesday and is aiming to pass a bill out of committee by Memorial Day. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is preparing stand-alone legislation on global warming.