February 3, 2010

Obama says Senate may drop cap & trade bill

President Obama acknowledged yesterday that the Senate may pass an energy bill this year without the cap-and-trade component he has long put at the center of his environmental agenda.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Nashua, N.H., Obama repeated his call for a price on greenhouse gas emissions but said he recognized that such an approach may not have the votes to make it into law.

"The only thing I would say about it is this: We may be able to separate these things out," Obama said. "And it's conceivable that that's where the Senate ends up. But the concept of incentivizing clean energy so that it's the cheaper, more effective kind of energy is one that is proven to work and is actually a market-based approach."

Byron Dorgan (D- N.D.) said he wants the Senate to pass the Energy and Natural Resources Committee bill (S. 1462) that establishes a nationwide renewable electricity standard, along with a raft of other energy incentives, including a provision that could bring oil and gas rigs closer to Florida's Gulf Coast.

Obama said that his energy agenda is centered on promoting energy efficiency and clean energy technologies, including renewables, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage at coal-fired power plants. Cap and trade also needs to be in the mix in order to promote cleaner forms of energy at the lowest cost to industry, Obama said.

Going for an energy bill alone, Obama said, is equal to saying, "let's do the fun stuff before we do the hard stuff."

A White House spokesman said Obama's remarks about the Senate debate were only an "observation."
"The president made his commitment to comprehensive energy and climate change legislation clear in last week's State of the Union address," the spokesman said. "Nothing has changed."

Advocates of a broad Senate climate bill -- including the cap-and-trade provisions -- also were quick to downplay the president's remarks.

"This is not a signal; this is President Obama explaining the imperative for a price on global warming pollution to drive clean energy investments," said Dan Weiss, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. "He is making the case that an energy-only bill won't be enough to drive investment."

"While today he's acknowledged that some want to go the path of least resistance, he made equally clear that's not his administration's position," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the lead author of the Senate climate and energy effort.

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