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Bipartisan bill opens global warming debate
San Francisco Chronicle


October 24, 2007

A bipartisan group of senators fired the starting gun on what's expected to be a long global-warming debate in Congress with a proposal for limits on greenhouse gases affecting every major segment of the nation's economy.

Lawmakers, industry groups and environmentalists have waited months for the bill, which was introduced Thursday by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut.

The bill, expected to be the centerpiece of the Senate's efforts to address climate change, would cap emissions and gradually reduce them using a market-oriented cap-and-trade system in which allowances to emit greenhouse gases would be bought and sold.

The bill requires cuts in carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases from electric utilities, transportation and manufacturing, accounting for about 75 percent of U.S emissions.

The bill would cap greenhouse gases at the 2005 emission level starting in 2012 and gradually reduce them to 1990 levels -- a 15 percent reduction -- by 2020.

"The goal should be to keep the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere below 500 parts per million," Lieberman said. "That will avoid what (scientists) describe as a high risk of severe global warming impacts here in the United States ... but also around the world."

The bill would not pre-empt tougher climate rules enacted by states like California and would offer incentives to states that act early.

Warner acknowledged that the new limits would burden industry and taxpayers. But he said less painful approaches, like the Bush administration's call for voluntary cuts, would not be enough to meet the global threat of climate change.

"The basic difference between the administration's approach and our approach is that we feel voluntary will not achieve the goals, the leadership that the United States of America simply must take ... to join the other nations of the world," Warner said.

Environmentalists mostly praised the bill as a good first step.

"Senators Lieberman and Warner have offered serious preventative measures that will take us a long way to preventing catastrophic climate change," said Kevin Knobloch, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But it needs improvement if we're going to restore the patient to full health."

Industry groups were skeptical of the measure, saying the emissions cuts could hurt the competitiveness of U.S. companies by increasing their energy costs.

"We believe the bill's proposed greenhouse gas emissions reductions are 'too much, too soon,' " said Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, a trade group of plastic and chemical manufacturers. He warned the bill would "turn energy markets upside down, causing massive reductions in coal usage and enormous increases in natural gas and renewable fuels usage."

Cynics noted that previous climate bills have failed in Congress, including a similar measure sponsored by Lieberman and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona. But sponsors of the measure say rising public concern over global warming and the leading role played by Warner, one of the Senate's most respected Republicans, gives this measure a better chance.


E-mail Zachary Coile at zcoile(at)
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