Gore's Prize Welcome News for Some Lawmakers

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Members of Congress who are drafting climate change legislation see the announcement of former Vice President Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize as great news. They hope to get their bills passed by early next year, but there are still obstacles ahead.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

It's still not clear where Vice President Al Gore's winning the Nobel Peace Prize will have any lasting effect environmentally or politically, but it certainly was welcome news for members of the U.S. Congress who are drafting climate change legislation. They hope to get their bills passed by early next year.

But NPR's Elizabeth Shogren reports there are political and legislative obstacles ahead.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer is delighted by Gore's award. She chairs the Senate committee that is drafting a climate change bill.

Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): Without a doubt, this prize is going to give us a lot of wind in our back, and I'm very, very excited about it.

SHOGREN: Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent Democrat, is helping write the legislation. He credits Gore for setting the stage for congressional action.

Senator JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (Democrat, Connecticut): I think he's created an understanding among the American people about climate change that has led them to begin to push their senators and congressmen to get something done about it. And hopefully that's what we'll in this session.

SHOGREN: Lieberman and Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia will unveil their bill next week. It would cut greenhouse gases 15 percent by 2020 and it would set up a cap-and-trade system. Companies that reduce emissions faster would sell the right to pollute to other companies. The senators expect to be able to pass the bill through committee by the end of the year.

But it won't be easy going. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee is on the committee. He says most senators agree global warming is real.

Senator LAMAR ALEXANDER (Republican, Tennessee): But when you get down to, then how do you deal with it, it's much more complicated. We're talking about potential cost of billions of dollars. And we have differences of opinion.

SHOGREN: Alexander worries the bill could swamp businesses with regulation and send jobs overseas. The full Senate is not expected to debate climate change legislation until early next year.

The House is moving more slowly. Representative Rick Boucher from Virginia chairs the subcommittee that's drafting a bill.

Representative RICK BOUCHER (Democrat, Virginia): This is the most challenging environmental legislation that the U.S. Congress will have ever considered, and we think it's important that we do a thorough job. We have to make sure that the legislation is meaningful and makes a substantial contribution to addressing the challenge of rising global temperatures but at the same time that it's adjustable by the American economy.

SHOGREN: Still, Boucher says he's optimistic that Congress will send legislation to President Bush next year.

Rep. BOUCHER: If it doesn't happen during the next two-year period, it almost certainly will happen during the next four years. And so the time is coming.

SHOGREN: A time may be coming when there's a bill, but President Bush opposes these initiatives, and next year is an election year. That makes it very difficult to pass major legislation.

One indicator both the House and Senate passed energy bills this year but the differences between them are vast. And it's not yet clear if Congress can reach agreement and send one bill to the president.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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