Energy leaders urge US climate bill this year

16 January 2008 22:31  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US energy sector leaders suggested on Wednesday that industry and business should support passage of a federal climate control bill this year rather than face more extreme emissions control laws in 2009.


“Conventional wisdom says that this election year will be a very difficult time to get almost anything out of Congress,” said David Parker, president of the American Gas Association (AGA). 


“But many of us expect that there will be more Democrats in the US Senate next year than there are now, so it might be better for us to work with this Congress this year in hopes of getting a climate control bill we can live with,” he said.


Although Democrats control both the US House of Representatives and the Senate, their majority margin in the Senate is only one vote. Consequently it is easier for Republicans in the Senate - who are seen by some groups as more friendly to commercial interests - to block business-hostile legislation or force compromises that limit legislative impact on business.


Parker and many others expect that in the US national elections in November this year Democrats perhaps will win several more seats in the Senate, retain or expand their majority margin in the House and perhaps win the White House as well. That scenario would leave Republicans proportionately weaker in Congress and less able to block or amend legislation deemed hostile to business.


“If we work with Congress now and perhaps get the president [George Bush] involved in the interest of his legacy, there is a real possibility we could get a reasonable climate bill out of Congress this year,” Parker said.


The Senate is expected to consider soon this year the Lieberman-Warner climate control bill, S-2191, which would impose limits or caps on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) US industry may emit.


Parker cautioned that if the climate control issue is left to a Democrat-majority Congress and a Democrat president in 2009, “I’m afraid that polar bear habitat is going to be the driving consideration in this debate, not US energy and economic needs”.


He also warned that a climate control bill that emerges from Congress without major input from the US energy and industry sectors likely will trigger major fuel-shifting among US electric utilities from coal to natural gas.


“That would drive the price of natural gas significantly beyond its current $8/m Btu range, and that would be a major concern for those of us in the gas industry and for all industry,” he said.


The US chemicals industry is heavily dependent on natural gas as a feedstock and energy source, and the sector has seen gas prices increase four-fold since 1999.


Parker spoke at the fourth annual meeting of the US Energy Association (USEA), an alliance of public and private energy-related organizations, corporations and government agencies.


In the same session, American Petroleum Institute president Red Cavaney warned that if Congress continues to maintain drilling bans on vast US domestic oil and gas reserves, the nation's economy and workforce will see significant losses.

By: Joe Kamalick
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