WASHINGTON – Prospects are dim that Congress will adopt legislation to force U.S. industry to cut pollution-creating emissions, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said Monday.
Most Americans might believe pollution from fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline causes global warming, he said, but adopting policies to reduce the emissions is a tough sell to people who are in a recession and whose light bills are going up.
Congress is working on several versions of energy legislation, and President Obama has proposed a system to limit the amount of carbon dioxide that companies could emit but allow them to pollute more if they buy credits from lesser-polluting businesses or the government.
States like Indiana, whose power companies primarily burn coal, say their energy costs would spike if utilities were forced to spend more money to produce electricity. Indiana’s electricity rates are about 25 percent less than the national average.
Lugar noted that about half the states rely on coal to produce electricity for homes and businesses, and lawmakers who represent those states try to defend their coal-based economies, while lawmakers from other states try to regulate the coal-burning states.
Legislation to limit heat-trapping carbon emissions died in the Senate last year.
The votes just haven’t been there, and I’m not sure they are now, Lugar said in a meeting with journalists. He said the lack of legislation dealing with air pollution will likely stymie the U.N. meeting on climate change in December where diplomats hoped to reach a global agreement on emissions.
Lugar said there are similar internal disagreements in other countries, including China. Combined, the U.S. and China produce the most pollution in the world.
Clearly, this is one world, he said. The atmosphere is filled, already, with CO2 from emissions from our two countries.
Both countries have a lot of coal, and we have many industries that have been dependent upon that coal and feel they will be hurt competitively.
He said China also takes the attitude that other nations – particularly the U.S. – have polluted for generations as their economies industrialized and grew. China is a newcomer to that arena, he said, and feels it ought to have a chance to catch up to the industrialized countries.