Congress ready for another round of climate change talks

| 3/26/2010

Shortly after passing health care legislation, several Congressional leaders are shifting their focus to climate change proposals.

With health care work finished for the time being, OOIDA’s Mike Joyce said Congress is preparing to address financial services reform and intends to combine energy, environment and climate change.

Sens. John Kerry, D-MA, Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and Joe Lieberman, D-CT, are pursuing a climate change proposal that will cap greenhouse gas emissions but won’t create a cap-and-trade formula.

Joyce said the new legislation appears to be more focused on regulating trucking, which will likely drive the price of diesel up – possibly through a fee at the pump.

“Cap-and-trade proposals are done; they’re dead,” said Joyce, OOIDA director of legislative affairs. “But what we’re seeing are these hybrids of the original proposals – little changes here and there in the terminology. They’re trying to make it more bipartisan, but the reality remains the same. Any type of legislation going down this route will end up being a tax on truckers with little to no benefit.”

Cap-and-trade systems create a stock market-like trading market by which companies are allotted a specific number of allowances based on emissions created by each business. Unused allowances could be stored as credit and traded or purchased on a market by companies needing allowances.

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have indicated they want to unveil a climate change proposal the week of Earth Day, which is April 22.

Last year, the U.S. House approved a cap-and-trade legislation, but momentum for companion legislation in the Senate slowed last fall. The Environmental Protection Agency has hinted that it might regulate greenhouse gases as a pollutant.

“We would prefer to have legislation compared to regulation because we have a better chance of influencing legislation probably more so than regulation,” said Joyce. “However, the Kerry, Graham, Lieberman proposal has really shined a spotlight on the transportation sector of our economy more – more so than cap and trade and EPA regulatory threats. Truckers are probably going to bear a heavy burden when it comes to environmental policy.”

Graham is reportedly trying to allow for increased offshore drilling, Congress Daily reported this week.

The publication also quoted Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as saying it would be impossible to garner Republican support of climate change legislation without expanding offshore drilling.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer