House's Dingell hopes to draft climate bill soon

DETROIT (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, said on Tuesday he hoped to draft climate change legislation as soon as possible.

Speaking to reporters at the North American International Auto Show, Dingell said he would like a fair “cap and trade provision” in the legislation and that he continued to weigh the possibility of a carbon tax on industry.

In addition, Dingell said a California proposal to dramatically cut automobile tailpipe emissions would “threaten the existence” of U.S. automakers if it is approved and imposed by all states. The fate of the California provision currently rests with the federal courts.

Dingell suggested the automakers, including struggling General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co, and Chrysler LLC, did enough in the newly approved law that boosts vehicle fuel efficiency targets by 40 percent by 2020, and that he would look for other industries to contribute to a climate bill.

Lawmakers in both houses are proposing measures to reduce greenhouse gasses. One backed by Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, would also provide billions in incentives to auto companies for research and development of fuel saving technologies.

The prospect of passing a climate bill this year will more than likely be complicated by congressional and presidential elections. The White House also opposes stiff mandates to curb greenhouse gasses, arguing they would hurt the economy.

Under “cap and trade,” regulators set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and issue permits for how much pollution, various industries can put out. Companies can buy and sell permits in order to run operations in the most profitable way.

Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Derek Caney/Jeffrey Benkoe