The Senate yesterday rejected a measure calling for mandatory limits on emissions linked to global warming, siding with the Bush administration's position that the restrictions would cost jobs, drive industry overseas and run up consumers' energy bills.
Voting 60 to 38, lawmakers rejected an amendment to a major energy bill that would have forced reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases to 2000 levels by 2010 and created an emissions trading program. Eleven Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure, and six Republicans voted with the Democrats to support it.
Opponents said the legislation would be too costly for businesses and would force manufacturers to move operations and jobs overseas. Some also disputed the conclusions of most scientists who have linked greenhouse gas emissions with global warming.
"My first priority is protecting our families and workers," said Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.). The amendment, he added, "will hurt our families, hurt our nation's energy security, drive jobs overseas. I don't want to be imposing this pain when there is no assurance that it will make any significant difference."
Lawmakers then passed by voice vote a nonbinding resolution calling for Congress to approve mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions in a way that does not "significantly harm the . . . economy." The resolution also acknowledges the "growing scientific consensus that human activity is a substantial cause of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere." Some environmentalists said the resolution -- while lacking any teeth -- marked a turning point in the debate and indicated a willingness to take action.
The defeated amendment was sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who said urgent action is needed. They disputed forecasts that the legislation would damage the economy.
Supporters of the measure said the United States is lagging behind many other countries in dealing with global warming. They also warned of economic damage resulting from more severe weather.
"The science is changing to be clearer and clearer that global warming is a problem," Lieberman said. "What is not changing is the failure of some of my colleagues to recognize that science. . . . The real losers here are our children and grandchildren, who, if we don't act soon, are going to inherit a planet that is not going to be as hospitable as the one we were given by our parents and grandparents."
The amendment, similar to one offered by the two senators in 2003, would have established an emissions cap-and-trade system that, in the worst-case scenario, would in 2010 freeze emissions of greenhouse gases at levels existing at that time.
Discussion of the issue comes as the United States faces increasing international pressure to take stronger action on emissions of greenhouse gases. European leaders are planning to press the United States on the issue at an annual meeting next month of the Group of Eight industrialized nations.
The Bush administration has repeatedly rejected calls for mandatory controls in favor of voluntary emissions limits, and says that program is working. The White House contends that mandatory controls would cost jobs and lead to higher energy prices.
Despite the growing body of evidence that industrial discharges of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gas emissions are a major cause of global warming, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, once again argued "there is no convincing scientific evidence."
On Tuesday, the Senate approved incentives to encourage the development of technology that would reduce emissions. Some lawmakers argued that until that technology is available, mandating reduced emissions would be unworkable.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D): Cap emissions.