Key US senator warns against cap & trade bill

26 October 2007 18:51  [Source: ICIS news]

Sen Voinovich wants tech solutions to climate changeWASHINGTON (ICIS news)--A key US senator warned on Friday that a cap and trade climate bill Democrats are trying to rush through Congress would have little or no impact on global temperatures but would devastate industry and the broader US economy.


Senator George Voinovich (Republican-Ohio), a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee where the legislation is pending, charged that the cap and trade concept “is flawed and would be a futile exercise”.


A cap and trade climate control plan, such as envisioned in S-2191, the “America’s Climate Security Act”, would impose limits or caps on US industrial emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and provide or auction emissions permits to individual companies. 


Those companies whose plants emit less greenhouse gases than permitted could sell remaining emission credits to other firms whose facilities exceed allotted maximums.


According to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Joseph Lieberman (Independent-Connecticut) and John Warner (Republican-Virginia), a government-mandated cap and trade system would spur industry to develop technologies to reduce their emissions.


“But cap and trade can’t be achieved with available technology, and it can’t be achieved before we have the technology for carbon capture and sequestration,” Voinovich told a press conference.


“If carbon capture were a realistic option, the Department of Energy would not now be spending $500m [€350m] on a ten-year research programme in hopes of solving the carbon capture problem,” he said.


“If Congress were to impose a cap and trade system now, the first thing companies will do is fuel-switching, shifting their power sources from coal to natural gas, and this would have a troubling effect for industry and labour and would ripple throughout our economy,” he said.


Speaking at a press conference co-hosted by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Voinovich said the impact of increased US natural gas demand for power generation and consequent gas price increases has already had telling impact on the US chemicals industry. 


He noted that the US chemicals industry was a major exporting sector until the late 1990s when the increasing cost of natural gas - a principal feedstock for the industry - began to climb sharply.  The US has been a net importer of chemicals since 2002.


The increasing cost of natural gas has in part contributed to the loss of more than 3m US manufacturing jobs in recent years, he said, arguing that that impact would be aggravated under a mandatory cap and trade system.


“I’m not suggesting that there should be no legislation to deal with climate control,” Voinovich said, “but we need a new approach, a better way.”


He said he will work in the Senate to try to build consensus for a climate control bill that would focus instead on incentives for technical advances - such as carbon capture and sequestration - that would reduce emissions without sacrificing the economy.


“This is the only viable way to go with this,” Voinovich said.  “We could provide tax incentives, loan guarantees, science prizes, government procurement programmes, all sorts of things to help advance the technology.”


“The goal then would be to get those emissions controls technologies - and technologies for alternatives to oil - and then go out and sell them to the world, and in the process we will maintain our economic and technical leadership,” he said.


Voinovich indicated that the cap and trade legislation now being advanced in his committee will likely fail in the full Senate.  “A lot of these senators who back this are going to hear from their people back home in their states and come back and want this or that change made, and if they feel they are being ignored, they will not support it,” he said.


($1 = €0.70)

By: Joe Kamalick
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