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Next week, the political haggling on Capitol Hill starts in earnest over legislation on energy and global warming. The measure could affect just about everybody who makes or uses energy. Their advocates have flocked to Washington to try to shape the legislation.
NPR's Christopher Joyce explains what they want from the bill.
CHRISTOPHER JOYCE: If this bill passes, businesses will have to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit in this new energy world. And they've sent people like Kara Saul Rinaldi to Capitol Hill to find out just how much the new legislation is going to affect them. Rinaldi works for the consulting firm Environmental Resources Management. She tells her clients that this year they should expect real change.
Ms. KARA SAUL RINALDI (Environmental Resources Management): In the past Congresses, there was a Republican in the White House who had made it clear that he would veto legislation like this. The current president has asked for legislation like this. So it's a - there's a real difference in just the political environment.
JOYCE: The operative phrase for the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 is heavy lifting. That certainly applies to the draft of the bill written by California Democrat Henry Waxman, which was more than 600 pages. And to the enormity of the goal, moving away from fossil fuels like coal and oil that produce climate-warming greenhouse gases. And Rinaldi's view is that many business executives who once fought the idea of limiting emissions now realize they'll have to shape the legislation.
Ms. RINALDI: I think most companies these days recognize that the writing's on the wall, and they will need to pay for their carbon at some point. It would be easier if you didn't have to pay for it at all, or if it was cheap, or if you didn't have to do it any time soon. But at the same time, if you're going to have to pay for it, you need to know when and what and how much.
JOYCE: But business lobbyists have softened the bill. The Edison Electric Institute, which represents utilities, already helped convince legislators to lower the bill's target for greenhouse gas reductions. Emissions must be 17 percent below what they were in 2005, but not until 2020. Dan Reidinger is the spokesman for the institute.
Mr. DAN REIDINGER (Spokesman, Edison Electric Institute): That's certainly an improvement over a 20 percent reduction, which was initially required under the earlier draft, but it's still pretty aggressive. And there's some concern that coal-fired power plants might have to shut down prematurely, some of them, and switch to natural gas. Natural gas is cleaner than coal, but it ends up being more expensive.
JOYCE: The current bill also requires utilities to eventually make part of their electricity from renewable sources, like wind and solar power. The institute says that's expensive, too, and wants to lower that percentage. Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee from both parties say many of the bill's provisions will cost Americans too much money, and Republican members say they'll come up with their own version next week.
Environmental advocate David Hamilton of the Sierra Club says, though, that this is the best chance yet to get a climate bill through Congress and signed into law.
Mr. DAVID HAMILTON (The Sierra Club): This is one of the great legislative expeditions in history, and they're pretty well outfitted.
JOYCE: But, he says, it still gives industry too much. Over a decade, for example, to figure out how to remove polluting carbon dioxide from coal. He says another provision that allows companies to pay for carbon-cutting projects in foreign countries before cutting their own emissions needs better policing. And contrary to what the White House wants, industry won't have to pay the government for permits to emit greenhouse gases, at least not yet.
Representative Waxman says he's confident his committee will finish work on the bill by Memorial Day. Christopher Joyce, NPR News.
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