Monday, February 12, 2007

More than a dozen competing measures have been introduced in Congress on the issue of global warming — some minor, such as creating incentives for biofuel research, and others more drastic, such as taxing automakers for selling gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles.

The Democrats controlling Congress — and a growing number of Republicans — say this year the government will take significant action against climate change. They say President Bush helped the cause by mentioning it in his State of the Union address last month, as have the presidential candidates pushing the issue.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has promised to introduce a package of bills by June 1 aimed at cutting greenhouse gases, with a vote slated for July 4.

“As the most adaptable creatures on the planet, it is time for us to continue to adapt,” she said Thursday, testifying on global warming before the House Science and Technology Committee. Mrs. Pelosi assured anxious colleagues that global-warming legislation “can create the next generation of good-paying new jobs.”

Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and a chief author of a leading global-warming bill, said there is a “very diverse cavalry” calling for action. His Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act is co-sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

“Doing something about global warming now will cost us a lot less than waiting to pay the cost of the effects of global warming,” Mr. Lieberman said of his bill, which imposes mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions so that in 2050 the levels would be one-third lower than 2000 levels.

It also would create emission credits to control the costs for businesses and encourage industries to comply, as well as protect poor people from high energy costs, he said.

Mr. McCain is running for president, as are Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, who have also signed onto the bill as co-sponsors.

Mr. Obama talked about the issue in his announcement speech Saturday, saying: “We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world.”

The bill, which the Republican-led Senate defeated two years ago, this year faces a much friendlier group of lawmakers. The debate now stems over whether to impose mandatory emissions caps, and how much the government should aim to reduce heat-trapping gases in the next few decades.

Bills suggesting a gas-guzzler tax or one that authorizes more than $20 million in taxpayer funds to establish four “green” universities have a slim chance of passing Congress.

Others, such as the Republican bill to increase the fuel efficiency standard to 40 miles per gallon for all new cars by 2017, are sure to meet opposition from lawmakers from Michigan, home to the already struggling U.S. auto industry.

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, Michigan Republican, warned that the swath of global-warming bills is causing “grave concern” for an already struggling economy.

“We’re not looking to the federal government to make it harder for them,” he said.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, also says he fears that legislation may be pushed “in a way that wrecks the American economy.”

The Bush administration has proposed allowing the transportation secretary to raise the fuel standard 18 months before an automaker’s model year and creating a credit system for companies with a head start.

Measures offering tax incentives for energy-efficient buildings and hybrid cars have support, and may be included in whatever sweeping measure is approved this year.

House leaders have not announced specific legislation they favor dealing with global warming, but several members have said there is bipartisan agreement on funding research for biofuel production.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico is crafting a compromise bill to slow the increase in greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters describe his plan as moderate and one more likely to meet Mr. Bush’s approval.

Mrs. Pelosi last month announced the creation of a special global-warming panel, a move that irked Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Dingell because it was widely viewed as an attempt to skirt him and tack regulations on automakers.

Last week the speaker and Mr. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who has fought changes in fuel standards, came to a compromise. They agreed that the new committee, which would expire at the end of the 110th Congress, will hold hearings and recommend legislation but would not have the authority to approve legislation.

Next month, Congress will have extensive global-warming hearings, with former Vice President Al Gore slated to testify March 21. Mrs. Pelosi said the U.S. must be innovative to meet the challenge, adding: “Green can be gold for our country.”

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