WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Energy Secretary Steven Chu on Wednesday gave limited support to a Republican senator for introducing an alternative climate bill that would limit emissions by less than President Barack Obama wants to, but would also take steps to reduce U.S. dependence on oil.
“In particular, I appreciate your ideas for reducing America’s oil dependence — which has taken on greater urgency as a result of the BP oil spill,” Chu wrote in a letter to Senator Richard Lugar, who introduced the bill on Wednesday.
Chu stopped short of endorsing the overall bill for passage.
Lugar’s bill, called the Practical Energy and Climate Plan Act of 2010, aims to cut U.S. greenhouse gas emissions with a mix of higher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, making new homes and buildings more energy efficient and expanding nuclear power generation.
It lacks a cap-and-trade market on emissions permits that was contained in a bill narrowly passed a year ago by the House of Representatives and in a bill unveiled last month by Senators John Kerry, a Democrat, and Joe Lieberman, an independent.
Some environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, criticized Lugar’s legislation saying it would only achieve about half of the 17 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 from 2005 levels that Obama has proposed.
Others have said it could be a good starting point and could be strengthened later.
Chu also praised Lugar for his contribution to the bipartisan debate on how to fight climate change and for the bill’s emphasis on efficiency.
The Senate is due to vote on Thursday on a move to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. The vote could help determine how the Senate moves forward on energy legislation.
Senate Leader Harry Reid has said he wants the bill moved to the Senate floor in coming weeks, but time is growing short to pass the bill before lawmakers leave for their summer recess in August and focus their attention on the congressional elections in the fall.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by David Gregorio