WASHINGTON – New Mexico's two senators laid out a path Thursday toward creating what they hope will become the nation's first mandatory program for trading greenhouse gases in the marketplace.
The technical report by Sens. Pete Domenici, the GOP chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Jeff Bingaman, the panel's senior Democrat, is an attempt to make a reality of a nonbinding resolution the Senate passed last year. It called for "mandatory, market-based limits and incentives" on emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases from fossil fuel burning that warm the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
The United States accounts for a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, with emissions growing at the rate of 2 percent a year despite the administration's voluntary climate change policies.
The senators said, "Further Senate action on global warming ... is necessary to move our energy system into a sustainable and predictable future, to avoid destructive interference with the world climate system and to maintain long-term U.S. competitiveness and economic prosperity."
Last year, while trying to get a broad energy bill passed in the Senate, Bingaman proposed — and Domenici had considered — calling for a mandatory 2.4 percent annual reduction in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the 1.8 percent annual cut President Bush set as a goal. The administration prefers letting industry take voluntary steps, and many businesses have done so.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., indicated his opposition to the senators' goals, saying Thursday that the Environment and Public Works Committee he chairs has jurisdiction over legislative action on climate change and emissions.
Dan Riedinger, a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute, said the utilities he represents continue to favor voluntary approaches. But he added that the senators' report "raises many good questions about the possible design of a mandatory scheme for reducing greenhouse gases. Of course, there are no easy answers."
However, Paul Bledsoe, a spokesman for the National Commission on Energy Policy, a privately funded panel of energy experts, said things can't help but change as global warming affects companies' finances. "I wouldn't want to be the last business in line to advise the Senate Energy committee about elements of a mandatory greenhouse gas bill," he said.