Senate climate bill unveiled; fate uncertain

WASHINGTON Tue May 11, 2010 6:39pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate compromise bill aimed at battling global warming would cut emissions of greenhouse gases 17 percent by 2020, according to a summary given to senators and obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.

The legislation, being offered by Democratic Senator John Kerry and Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, faces a tough battle for passage in the Senate this year -- especially without a Republican sponsor.

Besides cutting carbon pollution, it contains incentives to expand U.S. nuclear power generation and offshore oil drilling. But in the wake of the huge, April 20 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the proposal includes protections for coastal states that do not want oil drilling off their shores.

The climate bill would be Kerry's counteroffer to the U.S. House of Representatives, which passed a somewhat different version of climate control legislation nearly a year ago.

It aims to back commitments President Barack Obama made to world leaders in December that the United States for the first time would get serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, which many experts say will wreak havoc on the planet if left unchecked.

About 6.4 billion metric tons of the gases are sent into the atmosphere each year by coal- and oil-burning electric utilities, factories, refineries and vehicles in the United States, a level of pollution that is second only to China.

The proposed bill, which also was written by independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, builds on legislation approved in November by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Like the House-passed bill, it also would try to cut carbon emissions by more than 80 percent by 2050.

The initiative is expected to require utilities to obtain a dwindling number of pollution permits for every ton of carbon they emit starting in 2013, similar to the broader cap-and-trade system passed by the House. Those permits would be traded on a regulated market.

(Editing by Russell Blinch, Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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