US Senators Call for New Climate Legislation

Washington, May 13 (DPA) Two US senators Wednesday proposed a climate bill that could break an international logjam over long-stalled US action, strengthen US energy independence and reduce carbon emissions.

Senators John Kerry, a Democrat, and Joe Lieberman, an independent, who ran as a team for the 2004 presidency and vice presidency, are also to call for an expansion of offshore oil and natural-gas production.

US Senate inaction over the past months is often cited as a chief reason for the failure of agreement on a new global treaty to curb greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

The bill faces an uphill battle amidst an unprecedented crude oil well rupture in the Gulf of Mexico and the resulting debate over expanding deepwater drilling.

The Kerry-Lieberman bill would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent in the current decade compared to 2005 levels, under a carbon emissions trading programme already approved by the House of Representatives.

US President Obama gave full support to the proposal, saying it would "strengthen our national security by beginning to break our dependence on foreign oil".

Obama also noted the challenges "underscored by the immense tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico", but emphasised that the proposal would also help "jumpstart" clean energy technology.

The US Chamber of Commerce was cautious, calling for "bipartisan" support and noting the need to consider such a law's affect on "American jobs and our economy".

Kerry said the proposed law would "finally change our nation's energy policy from a national weakness into a national strength".

"We can finally tell the world that America is ready to take back our role as the world's clean energy leader," Kerry said.

Kerry and Lieberman lost the support of a key Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham, in recent weeks, because the bill would not go far enough to expand drilling.

They also face the loss of support by two key Senate Democrats - Florida's Bill Nelson and New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg - because the bill goes too far in expanding offshore drilling. Both states depend heavily on tourist income from pristine beaches.

"The path to 60 votes in the Senate has been long, but despite Washington conventional wisdom, we are closer than ever to a breakthrough," Kerry said in a statement.

A bill similar to the new proposal narrowly passed the House of Representatives in 2009, and would have regulated emissions from almost every sector of the US economy with a cap-and-trade programme.

The Senate bill would set up an emissions trading programme for utilities starting in 2013, and require factories and other industrial sources to join the programme by 2016.

Obama's advisor on climate issues, Carol Browner, said last week that the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could even galvanize support for the climate change bill.

"This accident ... is actually heightening people's interest in energy in this country and in wanting a different energy plan," she said.


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