Tulsa World: House Approves Bill for ‘Greener’ Economy

Jun 27, 2009
In The News

WASHINGTON — After a day of uncertainty, the U.S. House narrowly approved a historic bill Friday to address global warming and move the country toward a cleaner- energy economy.

The 219-212 vote sends the controversial bill to the U.S. Senate, where it faces even more uncertainty.

U.S. Rep. Dan Boren predicted defeat in the Senate.

Boren and others in Oklahoma’s congressional delegation lined up against the legislation, warning that it would disrupt the state’s farm economy and punish its energy industry and families.

"This legislation will saddle all Oklahoma families, seniors living on fixed incomes, and small businesses struggling to survive the current downturn with what is essentially a tax on energy usage in all forms — from gasoline to utility bills," said Boren, Oklahoma’s lone Democrat in Congress.

"The bill imposes enormous new costs on Oklahoma’s electric companies by forcing them to purchase carbon allowances to be compliant with emission reductions."

The legislation would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by about 80 percent by mid-century.

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are rising at about 1 percent a year and are predicted to continue increasing without mandatory limits.

Under the bill, the government would limit heat-trapping pollution from factories, refineries and power plants and issue allowances for polluters.

Most of the allowances would be given away, but about 15 percent would be auctioned by bid and the proceeds used to defray higher energy costs for lower- income individuals and families.

Boren said the bill would force Oklahomans to pay for the extra carbon allowances while at the same time providing states such as California with the allowances for free.

"It is a recipe for significant job loss, and it is the absolute wrong approach to take during a recession," he said.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said the bill would put the nation’s standard of living at risk by higher energy and food costs and lost jobs.

"This bill is the single largest economic threat to our farmers and ranchers in decades," Lucas said.

Not only would agricultural producers’ costs go up, he said, but their markets would shrink as foreign competitors are allowed to undersell them because their governments would not place similar burdens on them.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said residents in rural areas who commute long distances to work would be affected disproportionately.

"Many will face reduced living standards — spending less, saving less, and going without many of the items they need for a decent life," Cole said.

Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., said the bill would be particularly unfair to Oklahoma.

"Our state is a large producer of both oil and natural gas, and the restrictions this legislation places on the production and exploration of these resources will devastate our energy producers," Fallin said.

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