US Senate kills emission controls bill


Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 7

The Senate defeated a bill on Thursday to combat global warming by restricting the emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases.

The 55-43 vote was the Senate's first vote on such a bill, and proponents said it had won a surprising amount of support, signaling that the concept of a policy on global warming has gained traction.

The measure's opponents hailed the defeat, saying it was a vindication of their view that the bill would harm the economy and drive companies overseas.

Six Republicans joined Democrats in backing the measure, breaking ranks with the Bush administration, which opposes mandatory controls.

The bill's sponsors, Republican John McCain and Democrat Joseph Lieberman, said the vote was a first step in an inevitable move toward reducing the human contribution to global warming.

"We will be back on this issue just like we were back on the issue of campaign finance reform," McCain said in the Senate debate.

The vote was the first time the Senate had taken up specific legislation to restrict emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. In 1997, just before the talks that eventually led to the international climate treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, senators passed a resolution to reject any treaty that significantly harmed the American economy or that failed to include Third World countries. The protocol, which was rejected by President Bush in 2001, did exempt developing countries.

Thursday's vote, supporters of the bill said, reflected a growing concern among voters about global warming. Recent polls show that Americans strongly support actions to curb emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Opponents of the bill said the support it had received meant little, because the senators were aware that the bill would never win approval in the House. Many voted for it only because doing so allowed them to gain points with environmentalists while avoiding true political costs, the opponents said.

"In actuality," said Scott Segal, executive director of the Electric Reliability Coordination Council, a coalition of six major power companies, "the vote shows that most senators are extremely reluctant to potentially handicap the US economy and energy production."

The backers of the bill argued that not taking action to slow global warming would also have severe economic consequences. In the debate, Democrats Daniel Akaka and Olympia Snowe argued that rising sea levels and increasing temperatures would hurt agriculture and tourism in their states.

The bill would have required that companies restrict carbon dioxide emissions so that they would be no higher in 2010 than in 2000. Homes, farms and small businesses would have been exempt.