A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Wednesday unveiled an industry-backed climate change bill that could mean mandatory limits on U.S. carbon dioxide emissions starting in 2012.
Labor unions representing coal miners, auto workers, and the heads of seven big U.S. electric utilities endorsed the Low Carbon Economy Act of 2007, along with the AFL-CIO, the largest American labor federation.
U.S. emissions would be cut by 60 percent below current levels by 2050 — with interim targets in 2020 and 2030 — through a cap-and-trade system that would allow industry either to reduce emissions or buy credits to exceed their quotas.
To secure industry support, the bill’s primary authors — senators Jeff Bingaman, New Mexico Democrat, and Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican — set limits on the price of tradable emissions credits that industry would have to purchase if they overshoot their emission allowances.
That move incurred the ire of environmental groups, who said the “safety valve” provisions in the bill that sets an initial limit of $12 per ton on the price of emission credits will undermine greenhouse gas reductions.
“No wonder some of the big coal burners are excited,” said Frank O’Donnell at Clean Air Watch, an environmental group. “They could hit the jackpot with this.”
Dan Becker, global warming director at the Sierra Club, called the “safety valve” provision a “giant loophole” in the bill,” which could create “a formula for inaction.”