- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

President Obama’s first budget includes $15 billion a year for renewable energy programs and an ambitious plan to raise $656 billion from a carbon reduction proposal.

“Because our future depends on our ability to break free from oil that’s controlled by foreign dictators, we need to make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy,” Mr. Obama said Thursday.

The plan uses money from a cap-and-trade program - which would allow companies to emit carbon dioxide up to a certain level, and then charge them $20 per ton of gasses emitted above that cap - would pay for Mr. Obama’s middle-class tax cuts and investments in renewable energy.

Republican leaders were critical of the president’s plans, saying the national economy is in no shape to handle the burden of new taxes.

“We’ve got real concerns about his plan on cap and trade,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “Let’s just be honest and call it a carbon tax that will increase taxes on all Americans who drive a car, who have a job, who turn on a light switch, pure and simple.”

The cap-and-trade figure is a “conservative” estimate, and is acting as a placeholder until Congress sends legislation to the president, said senior administration officials speaking on background with reporters. The president is “optimistic” that a cap-and-trade bill will be passed this year, they said.

But congressional Democrats have split on timelines for climate change legislation.

Democratic leaders in the House say they plan to move forward with climate change legislation by Memorial Day, but Senate Democrats have been more ambiguous about a deadline for passage.

The Obama budget assumes the climate change plan will cut carbon pollution 14 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, who has said she would like to pass a climate bill from her committee this winter, said she was heartened by the president’s environmental commitments.

“The budget presented by the president today presents a clear path toward passage of a strong global warming bill,” said Mrs. Boxer, a California Democrat.

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