WASHINGTON (AFP) — US lawmakers braced Monday for a fight to push a sweeping climate change bill through the Senate, as President George W. Bush threatened to veto it and other opponents railed that it was economically unsound.
The legislation, known as the Lieberman-Warner bill after its sponsors, Senators Joe Lieberman and John Warner, calls for a "cap and trade" system, under which companies can trade permits giving them the right to emit a certain amount of pollution, "capped" below current emission levels.
Bush warned that the bill "would impose roughly six trillion dollars of new costs on the American economy," and was the "wrong way to proceed."
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Bush would veto the bill "if it were to pass in its current form."
But at an outdoor news conference held in the shadow of the US Congress, lawmakers from both parties, environmental activists, and business leaders vowed to fight to get the bill through the legislature.
Lieberman, a Democrat, called on lawmakers to pass the legislation and help the United States to "get back into the international leadership to do something about global warming."
"We created a lot of this problem and we have got to be now a part of the solution," he said
The bill would help break the United States' "addiction to oil", Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said to a cheer from activists, business and religious leaders.
Opponents of the bill, including the White House, were trying to protect the interests of big oil, she added.
"President Bush said he could in no way support this bill because it will lead to a 50 cent increase by 2030 in a gallon of gasoline," she said.
"The price of gasoline has gone up 250 percent under this president. But they say they can't support it because of this.
"At the end of the day, they are fighting for the status quo just as we are moving away from these sources of energy that are not going to be there long enough for us, that are dirty and imperiling the planet," Boxer said.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he would oppose the bill because it would have "a devastating impact on the US economy."
"It is a stealth and giant tax on virtually every aspect of industrial and consumer life. It would result in massive job losses. It seeks to radically alter consumer behavior, without any measurable benefit to the environment in return," he said in a statement.
Another Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, said the bill would "raise taxes higher and create more regulations than we've ever considered," and doubted that the legislation would effectively lower emissions.
"According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Lieberman-Warner bill will reduce global greenhouse gas concentrations by just one over percent by 2050 ... far less than the level needed to mitigate the effects of global climate change," he said.
The non-profit Institute for Energy Research (IER) also waded in, launching an advertising campaign aimed at halting the bill in its tracks.
IER argued that the bill "could have catastrophic impacts on American jobs, household income, gasoline and home-heating prices and more."
But Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid shot back that the legislation would create "hundreds of thousands, even millions of high-paying, permanent and sustainable jobs."
"It is about restoring our country's place as a global leader in technology and innovation. It is about ending our addiction to oil and our reliance on the unfriendly, unstable regions from which it is imported," he said.
Democratic Senator John Kerry said the cost of doing nothing against climate change would far outweigh the cost of implementing the bill.
"If you listen to the scientists, they have said that every bit of evidence (about climate change) coming back from Mother Earth is coming back at a greater rate and a greater degree than they had predicted ... whether it's the intensity of storms, the migration of forests, the extinction of species.
"Economists have done analyses of what is required to achieve our goals, and have pointed out that the cost will be far less than the cost of doing nothing at all," he said.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »