- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2009

President Barack Obama’s first budget includes $15 billion a year for renewable energy programs and an ambitious plan to raise $646 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 morning. “That’s why we’ll be working with Congress on legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy.”

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.

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Republican leaders were broadly 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. And if you look at this whole budget plan, they use this carbon tax as a way to fund all of their big government ideas.”

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.

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