- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 25, 2009

Support among House Democrats for legislation aimed at curbing greenhouse gases appeared to be growing Wednesday, bolstered by two favorable reports on the economic effects of the bill and an agreement on a string of demands sought by Democratic lawmakers from farm districts.

The measure still has few supporters among Republicans, however, who repeatedly have blasted it as economically devastating to average Americans.

With the House poised for a vote Friday on the bill, Democratic holdouts had included many lawmakers from agricultural-based districts concerned that farmers would suffer from high energy costs.

But House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota Democrat, on Wednesday urged his colleagues to support the bill after he secured several concessions he said would benefit farmers and ease the impact of higher energy costs for rural Americans. Among the changes - making it easier for farmers to meet new pollution ceilings and aid for rural communities facing potentially higher energy costs.

“We think we have something here that can work with agriculture,” Mr. Peterson said. “I think we’ll be able to get the votes to pass this.”

A new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the proposed limits on greenhouse gases required by the bill would produce a net additional cost to the economy of $22 billion a year by 2020, or an average cost per household of $175 after various cost-saving measures included in the bill are taken into account.

The findings contrast sharply with cost projections - some as high as $3,100 per household - that have been cited repeatedly in recent weeks by Republicans.

Rep. Mike Doyle, Pennsylvania Democrat, said the higher figures used by Republicans were based on an early analysis of the bill before several tax credits were inserted.

The lower CBO figures are “very helpful in debunking this bad information that is out there,” Mr. Doyle told reporters at a rally in support of the legislation Wednesday outside the Capitol.

“It has given a lot of members a sense to go back home and create all these clean energy jobs.”

The American Petroleum Institute (API), a major lobbyist for the oil industry, on Wednesday denounced the analysis, saying that it doesn’t take into account its own estimates that gas prices may soon increase 77 cents per gallon at the pump.

“Also, unlike other analyses, including the [Environmental Protection Agency’s], CBO assumes the legislation won’t slow down the economy,” said API President Jack Gerard. “Tweak CBO’s assumptions with common sense and the annual bill to households is more like $3,300” annually.

The environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council also backed the CBO’s findings, calling the oil lobby’s criticism of the report “phony and their motives dubious.”

“All [API] is trying to do is ignore the benefits of the bill,” said Daniel A. Lashof, director of the group’s Climate Center. “They ignore half the equation, so that’s how they get their average.”

The concessions won by farm-state Democrats were not enough for at least one leading agricultural lobby.

“The bill forces agriculture and other productive sectors of our nation’s economy into a position of severe competitive disadvantage with trading partners like China and other nations who will not burden their economies to control carbon emissions,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

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