By Steven Mufson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Two key senators said they will outline a comprehensive climate change bill today that could become the centerpiece of legislative efforts to slow global warming.
The framework includes a Federal Reserve-style board to help contain carbon costs, a 70 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from current levels by 2050 and the creation of a federal Climate Change Credit Corp. that would auction a large share of emission allowances and use the proceeds to promote new technologies.
The plan is being co-sponsored by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on private sector and consumer solutions to global warming and wildlife protection, and the subcommittee's ranking Republican, John W. Warner (Va.), whose committee positions boost the chance that their ideas could become a vehicle for legislation.
Lieberman has twice co-sponsored a climate change bill with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that was defeated in the Senate. Warner voted against it both times, so his support for a new measure signals shifting congressional opinion and improving prospects for passage of climate legislation.
"At that point in time, I had not sufficiently focused on this, and it was prior to a lot of scientific data that has come out," Warner said yesterday. Now, he added, "I feel an obligation to put something before the Senate."
Warner said he was also prodded by retired Gen. James L. Jones and other former military officers who urged him to back a bill to slow global warming.
"There is a growing movement, not only in the environmental community, that global warming is coming and that people have a moral responsibility to do something about it and an economic responsibility, because the losses could be catastrophic," Lieberman said.
The senators borrowed liberally from proposals already made by other members, including an idea for forcing importers to buy allowances if goods arrive from countries that are not part of a system for limiting greenhouse gases.
The lawmakers said they hope to push a bill through committee in September and bring it to the Senate floor later in the fall.
Their framework provides the free allocation of emissions to cover 30 percent of utility needs in 2012 based on historical use and phases in full auctioning of allowances. Transportation emission allowances would be imposed at refinery levels. By 2035, 52 percent of all allowances would be auctioned.
The auction revenue, starting at $69.5 billion, would be used to promote clean renewable energy sources, carbon capture and storage, and new vehicle technologies, while easing climate change impacts on coal-mining communities, wildlife, waterways and poor countries.
If carbon dioxide prices spiked and threatened specific companies or industries, the board would be able to loosen rules for companies borrowing from their quotas for future years.