The Senate began to drive a climate change bill Tuesday that could require changing climate legislation currently supported by the Obama administration. The debate centers on the challenges of crafting a bill that will allow the U.S. to participate in global climate change efforts without hampering international trade or other priorities.
In its current form, the legislation–passed narrowly by the House of Representatives in June–would force companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent from their 2005 levels by 2050. The bill also embraces tariffs that would protect energy-intensive U.S. industries such as steel and paper from competition with foreign imports. Viewed by some as the most sweeping environmental bill ever attempted, the bill would likely assist President Obama in reaching his goal of making the U.S. a key player in global carbon emissions reduction. Along with China, the U.S. , is currently among the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases.
Opponents to the current legislation’s terms, including a number of moderate Democrats and some Republicans, fear the bill could increase consumer prices, cause international trade disputes, and put U.S. companies at a disadvantage with foreign firms not bound by commitments to emissions reductions. These opponents are expected to push for changes in the proposed legislation, likely including less ambitious goals for carbon emission reduction, the use of nuclear power as an alternative energy source, and tightening of regulations regarding trading of pollution permits.
The debate coincides with the Group of 8 (G8) Summit, during which leaders of developed countries uniformly adopted carbon emission reduction goals similar to those of the current Senate legislation. Lesser developed countries did not adopt similar terms.