WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Senator John Kerry, the main proponent of congressional action to tackle climate change, acknowledged on Thursday it could be “very tough” to pass such a bill in Congress.
As the August congressional recess approaches, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is struggling to craft a bill that would win the 60 votes required to overcome Republican procedural hurdles and clear the Senate. Reid is holding a meeting with fellow Democrats on Thursday to find a way forward.
“We are down to two weeks before the August recess,” Kerry told a “town hall” meeting in Congress. “I don’t think any comprehensive energy bill has been done in three weeks, and this bill is very complicated,” Kerry said at the meeting.
President Barack Obama, who has made action on climate change a priority, has said he wants Congress to act.
But with mid-term elections looming in November, lawmakers and environmentalists are increasingly doubtful a comprehensive bill can pass this year. If Republicans chalk up gains in the elections, the effort could be stalled for some time.
Obama has also pushed the Environmental Protection Agency to take unilateral action if Congress fails to pass a bill. The EPA has begun issuing rules to cut emissions from cars and require power plants to have permits to emit carbon dioxide.
Kerry and independent Senator Joe Lieberman had crafted a bill that circulated last week that would have included carbon caps only on utilities. That was a big compromise from previous legislation that would also put caps on manufacturers and transportation.
Some power companies like Duke Energy want a climate bill so they can move ahead with billions of dollars in investments in new low-carbon power plants.
U.S. scientists have said that this year has been the hottest on record across the world.
Reid may push for a narrower bill that could encourage renewable fuels and contain provisions to deal with offshore drilling in the wake of the BP oil spill.
Kerry was upbeat that a climate bill with carbon caps would get done, if not in coming weeks, then in the future.
“This is not going to die, absolutely rest assured this is not going away,” Kerry said.
“As long as I am in the Senate and I’ve got another four years ... we are going to keep pounding away on this.”
Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Russell Blinch and Stacey Joyce