WASHINGTON (CN) -Two senators introduced a bipartisan bill on Friday that would limit the cap-and-trade system under consideration – an effort to moderate climate-change legislation in a way that Republicans can endorse.
The proposal came a day after three senators introduced a bill to cut emissions by about 17 percent, undermining the guidelines under consideration in the Senate to cut emissions 20 percent by 2020.
Despite the weakened language, the participation of Republicans – whose party members boycotted a committee vote on a climate bill in November – could mean a better chance of passing some form of carbon emissions cap.
“An unlimited, perpetual carbon pollution is not going to create a better environment for the next generation of Americans,” said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, who co-sponsored the Thursday bill with Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry and Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman.
Legislation proposed on Friday by Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell and Maine Republican Susan Collins would limit the emissions of companies that produce or import products such as oil and coal, but would mandate the same emissions cuts as a bill already under consideration.
Thursday’s compromise bill contains loose language to, in Kerry’s words, cut carbon emissions “in the range of 17 percent in the near term and at least 80 percent by mid-century” by embracing a variety of power sources: natural gas, clean coal, nuclear power and renewables.
The nascent proposals follow other climate legislation that cleared a major hurdle early last month, when Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to send it to the Senate floor despite a Republican boycott.
Like the bill already passed out of committee, Cantwell-Collins bill aims to cut U.S. emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, stricter than the 17 percent cut mandated by the House. All but the bill proposed by Graham, Kerry and Lieberman require an 83 percent cut by 2050.
The Cantwell-Collins bill would spend 25 percent of the carbon credit profits to promote clean energy technology research and development. The rest would be deposited into the bank accounts of consumers, with Cantwell saying that a family of four would get more than $1,000 a year on average.
By contrast, the Graham-Kerry-Leiberman proposal would impose a cap-and-trade system over more industries. And though the language is vague, Kerry called their bill “a starting point,” predicting more negotiations.
Graham hailed the legislation as a source of jobs. “I believe the green economy is coming,” he said. “That’s not a question. It’s just when it’s going to happen, and the sooner the better for me.”