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Experts weigh chances of Kerry-Lieberman energy bill

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Fortunately, the powerful seniors' lobby AARP has reminded us there is a more consumer-friendly alternative: legislation introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). It would require polluters to pay for the right to pollute and return most of the money to the public.

Though this, too, is an obvious long shot, it is better policy -- and bipartisan.

PHYLLIS CUTTINO

Director of the Pew Environment Group's climate and energy programs

To paraphrase the writing on a car's passenger-side mirror, a comprehensive climate bill may be closer than it appears. Perception always rules the day in Congress, with nothing so obvious as legislation that has no chance -- but then once it starts moving, it was always inevitable.

In fact, if President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can see a measure to the floor, adding further energy and oil spill components to the Kerry-Lieberman language and then allowing an open amendment process, senators of both parties will be confronted by a series of defining choices.

They could vote against American competitiveness, allowing China and other countries to far surpass us in the race for new, clean energy technologies and jobs. They could spurn the advice of the American military, which has termed global warming a serious threat to national and global security.

They could fail to give companies the regulatory certainty an orderly energy market craves. And they could vote to keep us hooked to what President George W. Bush called our oil addiction, continuing to produce energy the way we have for a century.

Or the Senate could face the future and give the country a rational climate and energy policy.

DAN SCHNUR

Director of the University of Southern California's Unruh Institute of Politics; communications director for John McCain's 2000 presidential campaign

Even inside the bubble surrounding Washington, the real world matters.


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