Bill to cut climate-changing pollution should be goal next year
Legislation to reduce U.S. greenhouse gases has been shelved by the Senate.
A procedural vote in the U.S. Senate that put off until next year legislation to limit greenhouse gases could prove a blessing. The measure needs revision to offset more costs to consumers, cut loopholes that would allow some industries to benefit financially while continuing to pollute, strengthen emission targets and tie into a broader energy policy from a new administration.
Transforming the nation from a carbon-based economy will require coordinated efforts to establish more quickly new energy technologies for power generation and transportation and lessen use of oil and coal.
The adjustment will not be easy, nor can consumers expect to see a return to cheap fuel and utility costs. But with fresh leadership in the White House and a Congress that recognizes a national agenda instead of parochial interests, the changes can be achieved. They are imperative for a wounded economy unsustainable as currently configured, if not for the health of the planet and its inhabitants.
Five years after climate change legislation was first introduced, the Senate last week finally began work on a bill to bring down the production of greenhouse gases by almost 70 percent from 2005 levels by mid-century. It would supply billions of dollars in subsidies for clean technologies and energy conservation and create millions of jobs in new and downstream businesses. The money would come from the sale of permits to polluters, such as oil refineries and power plants.
The bill was opposed by industries that argued the mandates were too stringent and that market forces should be allowed to dictate changes. Environmental groups argued the emission limits were lacking and allowed too many polluters to buy their way out of reductions while passing on costs to consumers.
But in an election year when the public has been narrowly fixated on individual aspects of an energy crisis -- the price of gasoline and airline fuel -- both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate merely went through the motions of passing the measure.
Democrats were aware they didn't have the numbers to end debate on the bill. Republicans, meanwhile, pulled out their bag of legislative tricks, including an unusual call for Senate clerks to read aloud each word of the nearly 500 pages of the bill to the chamber.
Hovering over the discussion was President Bush's warning that he would veto the bill, contending it would hurt the economy, ignoring the fact that the economy is already in great pain and that doing nothing will deepen the crisis.
Doing nothing, however, has been the administration's trademark when it comes to global warming. Shrugging off global cooperation and staging faux forums, it also has defied a law that mandates an assessment on climate change every four years and only under court order produced one. With a new president, serious legislation is more likely to emerge.