Issue Date: July 5, 2010
Doubtful Future For Energy Bill
President Barack Obama continued pressing reluctant senators to pass climate and energy legislation this year during a 90-minute meeting last week with some two dozen of them.
The President remains committed to provisions “putting a price on pollution,” he said in a statement after the closed-door meeting. But the statement noted that “not all of the senators agreed with this approach” and that the President welcomes other ideas to cut “dependence on oil, create jobs, strengthen national security, and reduce atmospheric pollution.”
The fate of energy and climate legislation in the Senate is likely to turn on several draft bills under consideration and the ability of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to meld provisions that are popular enough to draw the support needed to reach a 60-vote majority and bring a bill to the floor. Reid says he hopes to produce such a bill this summer, but floor action may have to wait until after the November elections.
So far, Senate attention has been fixed on a draft carbon dioxide cap-and-trade bill authored by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.). A somewhat similar bill placing a price on carbon emissions cleared the House a year ago. Also, Sens. Maria E. Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) have introduced a bill putting a price on oil and coal at their sources and returning 75% of that carbon tax directly to consumers.
Nearly all Senate Republicans have made it clear that they would not support any carbon pricing or cap-and-trade approach, as have several Democrats. Hence a search is under way to find a compromise.
Several senators have proposed legislation encouraging expansion of renewable energy through financial support and targets, but without a price on carbon emissions. Another option that has recently garnered interest is putting a price only on greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) has discussed this alternative, but last week he said he was unsure of when he might actually propose such a bill. At least one Republican senator, Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), is backing the power-sector-only approach.
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