Senate Panel Adopts Plan to Cut Emissions
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
One senator calls it the most far-reaching global warming bill in the world. The Climate Security Act aims to significantly cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and it has now been approved by a Senate committee. At the Capitol after that vote, the bill supporters congratulated each other, but its fate is still far from certain.
As NPR's Brian Naylor reports, it does not go as far as most scientists say is necessary.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer was accepting handshakes and hugs from her colleagues today, interrupting an interview for an embrace with Senator John Kerry.
Senator BARBARA BOXER (Democrat, California): I've been in office for 30 years. There are moments and there are moments. And this one was an amazing moment because I think everyone understood how important this was.
NAYLOR: Boxer was not talking about the hug, but about the 11-to-8 vote by which the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee she chairs approved a global climate change bill. The measure aims to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by some 70 percent by the year 2050. It would institute a cap-and-trade system, allowing companies that produce a lot of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane to buy credits from companies that find it easier to reduce their emissions. It was a largely party line vote in the committee. The lone Republican to support the measure was co-sponsor John Warner of Virginia.
Senator JOHN WARNER (Republican, Virginia): And there's a growing body of science. I acknowledge there's diversity of opinion, but it seems to me a growing body of solid science demanding action. I also feel, if we don't act, China and India will simply hide behind America's skirts of inaction and take no steps of their own.
NAYLOR: In fact, scientists have called for an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions to reverse global climate change, a target the Senate bill falls a bit short of. But even the lower goal is too much for many Republicans who warn of dire economic consequences, including the lost of jobs and higher energy prices should the Senate bill be enacted.
Ohio Republican George Voinovich.
Senator GEORGE VOINOVICH (Republican, Ohio): This is the most pervasive intrusion into the private sector in the history of the United States of America. When we finally get to the floor and we flush out just how complicated this is, people will say, who came up with that nightmare?
NAYLOR: Republicans tried throughout yesterday's day-long committee drafting session to weaken the bill. They offered dozens of amendments, including one to allow offshore natural gas exploration along the Gulf and southern Atlantic coastlines, and another to nullify the entire bill if India and China failed to match U.S. greenhouse gas reductions.
But Boxer was able to fight off the amendments and hold together the coalition that backed the measure. That, she says, was the tough job. Boxer claims it will be easier to attract Republican support once the measure is taken up on the Senate floor.
Sen. BOXER: The big question is can we keep the bill very strong and very good and pick up the votes we need? Now, the answer I would give you today is I'm very hopeful of that. But I have known that until I've had a chance to go around one by one. I mean, this is going to be a, you know, person-to-person kind of job that I'm going to be engaging in.
NAYLOR: The climate change measure will not reach the full Senate until next year. It will take 60 votes to get pass a likely Republican led-filibuster, that means 10 to 12 Republican will have to support the legislation. Backers are optimistic that, as Boxer put it, the wind is at their backs. They hope that in an election year, with many Republican senators facing tough re-election battles, public concern over the issue will force Congress to act.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the capitol.