A dollar a day could keep climate change away: EPA

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The average American family would pay at most $1 a day more to fight climate change, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

Lisa Jackson, then President-elect Barack Obama's nominee to be administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, addresses a question during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 14, 2009. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

EPA head Lisa Jackson said carbon-cutting legislation would, on average, amount to a 50-cent per day cost per household in 2020 and edge up for wealthier families, people who drive long distances and those living in states dependent on coal for electricity.

But even a doubling of the national average would only cost families $1 per day, Jackson said.

“Can anyone honestly say that the head of an American household would not spend a dollar a day to safeguard the well being of his or her children?” Jackson asked the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

But the committee’s top Republican Senator, James Inhofe, pointed to a July 1 poll by Rasmussen indicating that “56 percent of Americans are not willing to pay anything to fight global warming.”

The Democratic-controlled House narrowly passed a climate change bill last month that aims to slash greenhouse gases. Now the Senate is considering its own legislation, a top priority for the Obama administration.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the hearing that meeting the greenhouse gas targets in the House bill would cost households in 2020 about the same as buying a postage stamp each day. A first class stamp costs 44 cents.

“History suggests that the actual costs could be even lower,” Chu said, noting that sulfur dioxide emission cuts will cost a quarter of the original estimates.

Chu backs energy efficiency for achieving short-term emissions cuts, and emphasized the need for clean energy incentives to spur the research and development needed for long-term goals.

Jackson said she was “not concerned at this moment” that carbon offsets would dilute the effectiveness of proposed legislation.

Offsets allow companies’ investments in emission-cutting efforts around the world to nullify some of their own emissions. Some environmental groups say this measure, which is in the House bill, would provide a loophole for polluters to not change their practices.

“We are confident that we are going to get an energy and climate change bill that is good for our country,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

“There are ways in which we can bridge the gaps between Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; Editing by Lisa Shumaker