US House passes key climate bill

President Obama hails passage of anti-pollution bill, but critics say the measure is inadequate.

    Obama said the bill could create new industries and decrease dependency on foreign oil [Reuters]

    "Bold step'

    "It's a bold and necessary step that holds the promise of creating new industries and millions of new jobs, decreasing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil," Obama said after the bill was passed on Friday.

    Major climate bill provisions

     Reduce greenhouse gasses by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 per cent by 2050
     Limit emissions from major industrial sources
     Control carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels
     Investing in offset projects
     Require electric utilities to produce at least 12 per cent of their power from renewable resources by 2020
     Provide $1bn a year in development money to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants
     Require new buildings to be 30 per cent more energy efficient by 2012 and 50 per cent more efficient by 2016
     Protecting consumers from rising energy costs by giving rebates and credits to low-income households

    "Now it's up to the senate to take the next step."

    The House-passed bill requires that large US companies, including utilities, oil refiners, manufacturers and others, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 per cent by 2020 and 83 per cent by 2050, from 2005 levels.

    They would do so by phasing in the use of cleaner alternative energy than high-polluting oil and coal.

    "The scientists are telling us there's an overwhelming consensus ... global warming is real and it's moving very rapidly," Henry Waxman, the House energy and commerce committee chairman, and chief sponsor of the legislation, said.

    In urging its passage, Waxman also said the legislation would create jobs and help move the United States from its reliance on foreign oil.

    Bill criticised

    But Republicans said the bill was a behemoth that would neither effectively help the environment nor improve an economy reeling from a deep recession.

    John Boehner, the House Republican leader, called the measure "the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House of Representatives".

    Joe Barton, a senior House Republican on the energy panel, said the measure would set unrealistic targets for cutting carbon pollution.

    "You would have to reduce emissions in the United States to the level that we had in 1910," Barton said. 

    Daniel Kessler, a spokesman for Greenpeace International, also felt that the bill was inadequate.

    "I'm not going to say that no bill is better than this bill, but this clearly doesn't get us where we need to be," he told Al Jazeera.

    "It's a bill that greatly benefits industry lobbyists but it is a tremendous loss for the American people who need the government to lead off their best interests and follow the science in our common flight to fight climate change.

    "When you look at the coal industry for instance, they are going to be able to build new coal-fire power plants between 2009 and 2020 and in this day in age, we cannot have any more coal plants being built. 

    "Additionally, there's about two billion tonnes of offsets a year that are available under this bill and for those who aren't familiar with offsets, this allows polluters to keep polluting while they pay others across the world to clean up their behaviour. So in our view, this [bill] is a tremendous giveaway to the polluters."

    At the core of the bill, which is around 1,500 pages long, is a "cap and trade" programme designed to achieve the emissions reductions by industry.

    Under the plan, the government would issue a declining number of pollution permits to companies, which could sell those permits to each other as needed.

    Mary Nichols, California's most senior climate official, said: "The federal government will be joining California in the effort to combat global warming and the framework for doing it is one that is very similar to the one that California has adopted."

    California is recognised as having the most aggressive plan to fight global warming in the United States.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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