Obama pushes Senate to act on climate measure

FILE -- In this Feb. 25, 2009 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nv., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. FILE -- In this Feb. 25, 2009 file photo, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nv., talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
By Charles Babington
Associated Press Writer / June 27, 2009
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WASHINGTON—Hailing the House, President Barack Obama put pressure on senators Saturday to follow its lead and pass legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions, helping usher the U.S. into a new age of energy efficiency.

"Now my call to every senator, as well as to every American, is this: We cannot be afraid of the future. And we must not be prisoners of the past," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address. "Don't believe the misinformation out there that suggests there is somehow a contradiction between investing in clean energy and economic growth. It's just not true."

The legislation, which the House narrowly approved Friday night, would place the first national limits on emissions of greenhouse gases from major sources -- such as power plants, factories and oil refineries -- to reduce the gases linked to global climate change. It would also start moving the U.S. away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner power sources, such as geothermal, wind, solar and more nuclear generators.

The potential impact on people's daily lives is great. If the proposal, which faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, were to become law, it could make it more expensive for people to heat, cool and light their homes; mean more smaller, fuel efficient and hybrid electric cars; and create more "green" jobs, or environmentally friendly ones. Windmills and solar panels might replace smokestacks.

The complex bill, would require the U.S. to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and by 83 percent by midcentury.

Opponents complain about the costs and say some industries will simply move their operations and jobs out of the U.S. to countries that don't control greenhouse-gas emissions.

House Democratic leaders said the bill helped accomplish one of Obama's campaign promises and would make the U.S. a leader in international efforts to address climate change when negotiations take place in Denmark this year.

"We passed transformational legislation, which will take us into the future," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., after the 219-212 vote.

Success will be tougher in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants to take up the legislation by the fall. Sixty votes will be needed to overcome any Republican filibuster.

The "razor-thin vote in the House spells doom in the Senate," said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla.

The White House and congressional Democrats argued the bill would create millions of green jobs as the nation shifts to greater reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and development of more fuel-efficient vehicles -- and away from use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

Republicans saw it differently.

This "amounts to the largest tax increase in American history under the guise of climate change," declared Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.

In the Republicans' weekly radio and Internet address, House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio said, "By imposing a tax on every American who drives a car or flips on a light switch, this plan will drive up the prices for food, gasoline and electricity."

But Obama said the measure would cost the average American about the price of a postage stamp per day.


Associated Press writers Dina Cappiello and H. Josef Hebert contributed to this report.


On the Net:

Video of Boehner's address: