WASHINGTON Democratic leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives hope to debate and pass a climate change bill on Friday, although negotiations were continuing with farm-state lawmakers who have concerns, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Tuesday.
"It is quite possible and maybe even probable that we will go to the energy bill on Friday and complete the energy bill on late Friday," Hoyer told reporters. He was referring to the legislation that would cut carbon dioxide emissions associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels, as well as provide new incentives for producing alternative fuels.
President Barack Obama, at a White House press conference, called the climate change bill "historic legislation that will transform the way we produce and use energy in America."
Obama, who has made combating global warming a top priority, said the bill would "finally spark a clean energy transformation that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and confront the carbon pollution that threatens our planet."
Over the past several weeks, House Democratic leaders have been in difficult negotiations with farm-state lawmakers, whose support might be necessary to pass the environmental bill approved in May by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Among their concerns are the treatment of corn-based ethanol as an alternative fuel to carbon-emitting coal and oil, as well the handling of other steps farmers take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for man-made global warming.
To win over farm state lawmakers, the bill was amended to give 0.5 pct of permits, which would be issued to firms to control their emissions, to small electricity local distribution companies that serve rural areas.
Hoyer said the changes being negotiated were important in getting the support of Democrats representing farm regions, as well as other moderate Democrats.
But the legislation is likely to be opposed by many House Republicans and its fate is more uncertain in the Senate.
House Republicans have complained that the measure would raise energy prices and encourage manufacturers to ship more operations and jobs abroad to avoid the new pollution limits.
Neither Hoyer nor a spokesman for the House Agriculture Committee would detail the areas of remaining disagreement among Democrats. But Hoyer said he thought a final deal could be reached by Wednesday. The committee spokesman said, "They're going to go to work and try to reach a resolution."
(Additional reporting by Charles Abbott and Tom Doggett, editing by Vicki Allen)