US Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) [official website] on Wednesday introduced legislation [S 3464 text, PDF; materials] intended to reduce foreign oil dependence and cut greenhouse gas emissions. The Practical Energy and Climate Plan of 2010 would reduce foreign oil imports by 40 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2030, according to a press release [text] detailing the legislation. The bill would accomplish this through increased fuel efficiency standards, building energy performance, and the promotion of alternative sources of energy, such as nuclear power plants and closing coal plants by 2018. In the press release, Lugar was critical of similar legislation recently proposed by Democratic lawmakers, to which his bill is intended as a counter-proposal. Lugar outlined his objections to a cap-and-trade [CFR backgrounder] scheme and called for a consensus on the issue. He explained:
[The Democratic proposals] represent a significant disconnect with the priorities of Americans. They could add significant - and perhaps debilitating - expense to our already fragile economy and they would be an invitation to special interest protectionism. It is also becoming more apparent that cap and trade schemes are not meeting their designed goals. ... By placing carbon reductions ahead of solving energy vulnerabilities, the cap and trade bills situate the energy debate on the most controversial and unsustainable political ground. Energy policy would benefit greatly from something close to a political consensus. The most contradictory outcome would be the imposition of an expensive cap and trade plan by a narrow political margin at a time when the added expense could intensify economic pressures in the United States, thus undercutting the appetite of Americans for any efforts toward carbon reductions.The bill is cosponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [official websites]. Their sponsorship comes as a blow to Democratic efforts to pass comprehensive climate change legislation, due to the fact that Murkowski and Graham had been in negotiations with Democratic leadership and the Obama administration over legislation introduced to Congress earlier this session.
Comprehensive climate legislation represents a major part of President Barack Obama's legislative agenda. In April, Graham withdrew support [JURIST report] for a comprehensive climate change bill [materials], delaying the unveiling of the legislation and casting its prospects for passage into doubt. The bill had been under negotiation between Graham and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) [official websites] for six months. It was announced Monday that the Kerry-Lieberman bill would be introduced as an amendment [NYT report] to an energy bill [S 1462 materials] passed out of committee [KVTA report] with the support of Murkowski in June 2009. Graham, the only Republican Senator that has agreed to work with the Obama administration on the Kerry-Lieberman bill, decided to walk away from it due to reports that Democratic leadership planned to move forward with immigration reform [JURIST news archive] legislation first. Graham has also criticized the bill [The Hill report] on the grounds that it does not expand oil exploration and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, something that Democratic lawmakers have declined to pursue in light of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill [BBC backgrounder]. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] stated his commitment to passage of both the climate bill and immigration reform legislation before the November midterm elections and the end of the current session of Congress. The US House of Representatives [official website] passed [JURIST report] its version of the climate bill [HR 2454 materials] in June on a narrow 219-212 vote. The bill calls for a reduction in greenhouse emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050 by establishing a cap-and-trade system. The bill establishes first-time limits on greenhouse gases that will become progressively stricter.