WASHINGTON – Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., killed any hopes Democrats have of winning his vote on climate-change legislation this year, and he said prospects are dim for persuading China to agree to limit greenhouse-gas pollution.
In a breakfast meeting with reporters Tuesday, Lugar said the House bill that restricts emissions of greenhouse-gas-causing carbon dioxide is not a very good idea because it is financially onerous to states like Indiana and wouldnt create a significant change for 20 years.
And he said countries like China wont commit to reducing carbon dioxide pollution because their developing economies need the energy.
At the end of the day, he said of the Chinese, they will continue to build their coal-fired furnaces, one a week, indefinitely, Lugar said. Why? Because the political existence of those regimes depends upon delivering energy and power where its required, come hell or high water.
Lugars remarks were in sharp contrast to a speech delivered at the United Nations by President Obama an hour later.
Obama said a global treaty to address climate change must include commitments from China, India and other emerging economies that were omitted from the first international treaty, the Kyoto Protocol.
We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together, Obama said. There is no other way.
In his U.N. speech, Obama urged world leaders to act quickly to address climate change.
After too many years of inaction and denial, there is finally widespread recognition of the urgency of the challenge before us. We know what needs to be done, Obama said at a U.N. climate change summit.
But Obama did not offer a blueprint on how to get Senate action on the House-passed carbon emissions-trading legislation.
Democrats have 57 seats in the Senate and must win the support of three Republicans or independents to overcome a filibuster. Lugar has supported many pro-environment bills in the past, and some advocates of the bill hoped he might be one of the Republicans who would vote for the legislation.
Lugar was pessimistic about Congress passing a bill.
The real way of approaching this, he said, is through conservation, through building modification, through the change in how electricity is delivered. Leaving aside cap-and-trade and some very large federal legislation which, in my judgment, is not going to make much difference in CO2 for 20 years, we can make a difference now.
He said the sense of urgency surrounding the need for passing legislation is so the U.S. has something to take to the climate-change meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December. Lugar described the logic as: If the U.S. has a domestic commitment and plan to reduce carbon emissions, countries such as China and India will be more willing to limit their own emissions.
But, he said, to give the impression somehow the Senate must pass a bill comparable to the House or anything in that ballpark seems to me is not a very good idea and is one Im likely to oppose.