Cap-and-Trade Bill Blocked

By a vote of 48-36, the bill fell short of the 60 votes needed to bring it to a final debate.

Lawmakers blocked a sweeping climate change bill on June 6, after Republican warnings of high energy costs dashed Democrats' hopes for pollution caps under President George W. Bush's administration. By a vote of 48-36, the bill fell short of the 60 votes needed to bring it to a final debate, after Republicans argued that it would be too expensive to the U.S. economy and the White House vowed a veto.

The legislation called for a "cap and trade" system that would cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 65% in 2050 and reward environmentally friendly companies by forcing polluters to buy credits from greener industries.

Backers of the legislation said it would create a spate of new jobs and re-position the U.S., a top world polluter, as a leader in the global fight against climate change. But Senate Republicans and Bush, who has called for a voluntary reduction in the growth of emissions from 2025 and dismissed the legislation as too complicated, said it would cause spiking fuel and electricity prices.

Bush predicted it "would impose roughly six trillion dollars of new costs on the American economy," and was the "wrong way to proceed," while his spokeswoman Dana Perino said he would veto it, if it had passed. "If we harm the economy that's already currently in a slowdown, if we harm it any further, no one is going to have any extra money to pay for the new technologies that we're going to need to be able to solve this problem. And by working on new technologies and working to make sure that China and India are at the table, that's the way to try to tackle this problem."

Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that although all senators had not been present for the vote, 54 had supported the bill, up from 38 in 2005. "We anxiously await the inauguration of a president who will work with us to protect our planet and our people from the ravages of global warming," she said.

Energy industry advocates hailed the procedural motion to end debate as sign of shoddy legwork on the part of legislators. "This mad dash to cram debate into a few days seemed to be governed by the politics of the moment, rather than any belief that the bill was really ready for final passage," said Scott Seagal of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council. Any future bill must have an "adequate cost-containment mechanism," and "ensure that the developing world will undertake comparable action to that required in America," he said.

Environmentalists vowed to press for a stronger bill next time around. "The next step is November 2008 when we have an election and we are going to work to see that we get a 60-vote majority," said David Sandretti, spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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