(by Ian Talley, WSJ.com) WASHINGTON — The Senate debate over climate legislation is set to begin in earnest this week, with a key panel holding hearings on legislation that would curb U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions.
The hearings by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works mark the first phase in what is likely to be a months-long undertaking by Senate Democrats to try to pass a climate bill.
After months of delays, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and John Kerry on Friday unveiled a more-detailed version of their climate legislation. The version of the bill, which would seek to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 20% below 2005 levels by 2020, includes new provisions intended to hold down costs to consumers and certain industries.
The Senate bill being debated this week is similar, in both broad outlines and many details, to legislation passed by the House. It would require companies across the economy to hold government-issued permits allowing them to emit greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to global warming. Over time, the government would reduce the number of permits issued, bringing down emissions, while allowing companies to trade the permits among themselves.
Like the House measure, the Senate bill attempts to ease the costs to industry by initially giving away for free permits to certain industries, such as electric utilities and makers of steel and cement.
Oil-industry officials reacted negatively to the latest version of the Senate legislation. Compared with other industries, oil companies would receive one of the smallest shares of the allocations in the current proposal, despite being one of the biggest greenhouse-gas sources. American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard said the Boxer-Kerry bill was “worse” than the House version. “It will impose even greater costs on the economy and distribute those costs just as inequitably,” he said.
How the allocations are divided between industries is one of the most contentious aspects of the legislation. President Barack Obama, shortly after taking office, proposed auctioning off most of the emission permits to help fund tax cuts for the middle class. But the administration has given up on that approach in an effort to gain the support of many key industries, such as power companies and steelmakers.
The proposal by Ms. Boxer, of California, and Mr. Kerry, of Massachusetts, is likely to go through several iterations, as lawmakers seek to gain enough support to pass the measure on the Senate floor. Still, Democratic leaders are signaling that the measure faces a long road. Majority Leader Harry Reid has suggested the chamber may have to wait until next year to vote on legislation putting a price on carbon, in part because of the chamber’s preoccupation with health care.
Ms. Boxer has said she plans for her panel to vote on the bill as soon as the first week in November. That timetable could slip, depending on how Republicans respond to the latest version. Friday, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking member on the environment committee, said Republicans on the panel were prepared to block a vote on the legislation if the Environmental Protection Agency hadn’t conducted what he believed to be adequate economic study. [“One would think that, prior to legislative hearings, the committee would have a thorough, comprehensive economic analysis to understand how an 800-plus page bill, designed to fundamentally reshape the American economy, affects consumers, small businesses, farmers, and American families,” said Inhofe in a statement.]
In a short analysis of the bill released late Friday, the EPA said the Senate version would have a similar estimated economic impact as the House bill, passed in late June. The EPA estimated the House bill would cost the average household 22 cents to 30 cents per day, or $80 to $111 per year. [There have been widely conflicting price tags estimated for the climate bills. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the household cost of the House-passed bill at about $175 a year in 2020. It has not examined the Senate bill. But some industry-cited studies have put the cost much higher, some claiming possible added costs of as much as $3,000.]
-Stephen Power contributed to this article.
Write to Ian Talley at email@example.com.
1. Name the two senators who have submitted a cap and trade bill for debate in committee this week.
2. How is the Senate bill similar to the bill that already passed in the House?
3. How will both House and Senate bills attempt to lessen the cost of cap and trade to businesses?
4. Why don’t oil industry officials like the latest version of the Senate climate bill?
5. Under what circumstances would Senate Republicans on the environmental committee block a vote?
6. Read the “Background” below. Then consider this: The Pew Research Center’s new poll on global warming shows that since last year the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising has declined. Note that 50% of Americans favor the government placing limits on carbon emissions. However, only 23% of Americans know what cap and trade legislation is. (Read the poll results at people-press.org/report/556/global-warming.) The issue of cap and trade might seem complicated or boring. But it is important to understand! This issue will affect your future. You should understand both sides of the issue and base your opinion on the facts. Ask a parent to look over the information and discuss the issue with you.
Do you support government regulation of carbon emissions for businesses? Explain your answer.
Global warming is an important issue to understand. The theory that man’s use of fossil fuels (burning coal, oil and gas for energy, which produces carbon dioxide, or CO2) is causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate – global warming – is believed to be true by many scientists, climatologists, citizens, the mainstream media and Hollywood celebrities, and was made popular by former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” People who believe in this theory say we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by limiting/reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use, or by purchasing offsets.
The belief that man’s activities are not causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate is held by many other scientists (see MIT’s Professor of Meteorology Dr. Richard Lindzen’s commentary in Newsweek here). This view is very unpopular in the media and widely condemned by those who believe man-made global warming is fact. See Newsweek magazine’s online presentation “The Global Warming Deniers” here. Those who do not believe man is causing the global temperature to rise don’t believe it is necessary to reduce the production of CO2 by reducing our use of fossil fuels or to purchase carbon offsets.
ON GLOBAL WARMING and the KYOTO TREATY:
The opposing viewspoints on global warming are:
Watch a clip from a video “Not Evil, Just Wrong” that refutes Al Gore’s global warming movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”