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By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON, June 6 (Reuters) - A U.S. carbon-capping bill aimed at curbing climate change died on Friday in the Senate but its supporters looked to the next president to enact a global warming law as early as 2009.
The bill aimed to cut total U.S. global warming emissions by 66 percent by 2050. Opponents said it would cost jobs and raise fuel prices in an already pinched American economy.
Far from being discouraged, Sen. Joe Lieberman said international observers would be gratified that the measure got support from a majority in the Senate, including presumptive presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama.
"I think people around the world are going to be greatly encouraged by the fact that 54 members of the U.S. Senate are saying they want to support a real response to global warming," Lieberman, the independent senator from Connecticut who sponsored the bill, said after the measure ended with a procedural vote.
The vote showed 48 senators favored the bill with 36 opposed. Six more senators, including Illinois Democrat Obama and Arizona Republican McCain, wrote letters saying they would have voted in favor if they had been in town to vote. Sixty votes were needed to take the bill to the next stage of consideration.
"In America change doesn't happen overnight, it takes time to turn the ship of state," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who shepherded the bill.
She noted that Senate climate change legislation was first introduced in 2003 and the 2005 version got only 38 votes. "This is coming," Boxer said.
She said supporters planned to start work next week on a "roadmap" for the next president.
SETTING THE STAGE FOR A NEW PRESIDENT
President George W. Bush has consistently opposed any economy-wide cap-and-trade plan and had vowed to veto this bill if Congress approved it.
Senate leaders opposed to the bill used a variety of tactics during weeklong debate on the Senate floor, including a rare maneuver by Republicans that forced clerks to read an updated version of the 491-page bill aloud. That took 10 hours.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky discounted the vote's importance. "This whole exercise will have had no effect on either climate change or gas prices," he said.
Environmental groups were jubilant, even as the bill was defeated.
"Today's vote sets the stage for a new president and Congress to enact strong legislation that will more effectively build a clean energy economy and prevent the worst consequences of global warming," a coalition of green groups, including Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation and Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
The statement accused lawmakers allied with the coal and oil industries of blocking progress on the measure.
The Climate Security Act would have cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 2 percent per year between 2012 and 2050, based on 2005 emission levels, its proponents said.
The bill would have capped carbon emissions from 87 percent of U.S. power plants, oil refineries and other pollution sources, cutting emissions to 19 percent below current levels by 2020 and 71 percent below current levels by 2050.
These are more modest targets than those set by the Kyoto Protocol. The United States is alone among major industrialized nations in rejecting the Kyoto pact.
Carbon dioxide, which contributes to the climate-warming greenhouse effect, is emitted by fossil-fueled vehicles, coal-fired power plants and natural sources, including human breath. (Editing by Frances Kerry and Bill Trott) (For more Reuters information on the environment, see blogs.reuters.com/environment/ )