Last Updated: Thu Nov 04, 2010 19:16 pm (KSA) 16:16 pm (GMT)

Obama drops plan to limit global warming gases

Obama says the cap-and-trade plan is not the only way to reduce  gazes (Image of Scientific America)
Obama says the cap-and-trade plan is not the only way to reduce gazes (Image of Scientific America)

Environmental groups and industry seem headed for another battle over regulation of greenhouse gases, as President Barack Obama said he will look for ways to control global warming pollution other than Congress placing a ceiling on it.

Leaders of the Republican Party, which swept back into the House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate, strongly opposed a bill last year to impose the first U.S. restrictions on carbon blamed for global warming.

 Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end 
President Barack Obama

But in one result savored by environmentalists, voters in a California referendum rejected a call to freeze the state's own ambitious plan to curb carbon emissions.

Obama, in a somber post-election press conference, acknowledged that the new Congress was unlikely to move ahead on the so-called "cap-and-trade" plan, which would require carbon cuts and allow companies to trade credits.

"Cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat; it was not the only way. It was a means, not an end," Obama said.

"And I'm going to be looking for other means to address this problem," he said.

The cap-and-trade plan last year passed the House but not the Senate. Ahead of last year's Copenhagen summit, the Obama administration warned that if Congress did not act, the Environmental Protection Agency may regulate carbon.

Obama was non-committal on the idea Wednesday, saying that federal authorities were not "protective of their powers" but wanted to "make sure that the issue's being dealt with."

Obama said he saw areas of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans as both parties supported greater independence from foreign oil.

"That gives opportunities for Democrats and Republicans to come together and think about -- whether it's natural gas or energy efficiency or how we can build electric cars in this country -- how do we move forward on that agenda," he said.

 We're not going to get a comprehensive bill like we did in the last Congress. That's not going to happen 
Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters

Critics of the administration's energy policy are expected to take key positions in Congress.

One candidate to be the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is Representative Joe Barton of Texas, who raised controversy in June when he apologized to BP for the $20 billion White House "shakedown" of the oil giant over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Representative Darrell Issa of California, a passionate critic of climate legislation, is likely to take over the House Oversight Committee which would launch investigations of the Obama administration.

In the election, two unabashed supporters of climate action backed by green groups, Democratic Representatives Mark Schauer in Michigan and Tom Perriello in Virginia, both lost.

Plastics manufacturer Ron Johnson, who has called global warming "lunacy," defeated Democratic Senator Russ Feingold in Wisconsin for the seat once held by Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson.

Environmental groups acknowledged they lost allies in Congress but played down the impact, saying that the election showed voter anger about the economy but not climate legislation.

A poll conducted on behalf of environmentalists in 83 battleground districts found that only seven percent who picked the Republican candidate listed "cap-and-trade" as the top concern.

Fifty-eight percent supported a national climate plan when it was presented without the term "cap-and-trade," according to the survey of 1,000 voters.

"We're not going to get a comprehensive bill like we did in the last Congress. That's not going to happen," Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, told a news conference.

"But there are many specific proposals that have bipartisan support," he said.

Environmentalists rejoiced at the referendum in California, where more than 61 percent of voters rejected the plan to freeze carbon emission cuts until a drop in the state's unemployment rate, one of the nation's worst.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said that campaigners successfully portrayed climate action as a way to create jobs, despite millions of dollars in advertising by Texas-based oil companies.

"With the resounding thumping that we gave to Big Oil in California, we are producing a model that can be replicated across the country," Brune said.

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