WASHINGTON (CN) – As a catastrophic oil spill continues to pollute the Gulf of Mexico, lawmakers unveiled a climate and energy bill Wednesday that tightens standards for offshore drilling and creates green jobs in what President Obama called an effort to “redouble” the nation’s effort in reforming energy policy.
The 987-page bill, introduced Wednesday by Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., caps emissions, calls to reduce oil imports and creates 2 million jobs in the clean energy sector, building solar panels, blades for wind turbines and car batteries.
“I don’t think there are many people left who really question that we need a major transformation in the way we produce power,” Kerry said.
“It’s a practical pathway to finally end our addiction to oil, put Americans back in control of our own power production, and release the innovation and ingenuity of Americans to build the clean energy economy we need to build prosperity in the 21st century,” he added.
He also said the bill would help the United States become a global economic leader in clean energy, helping close an energy gap between the United States and China. China recently raised its fuel efficiency standards to more than 36 miles per gallon.
The bill’s authors tightened standards for domestic offshore drilling after the BP oil spill started gushing 5,000 barrels of oil a day off the U.S. coast when the drilling rig Deepwater Horizon suffered a devastating explosion on April 20. Originally, the bill provided for expanding drilling off U.S. coasts, but now it allows states to veto drilling that is less than 75 miles off of their coasts in case of environmental or economic damage.
The bill calls to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. Oil companies will be forced to buy emission permits to comply with federal standards.
Senators have been working on the bill for more than six months, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who recently dropped out of negotiations due to disagreements surrounding the Gulf oil spill and immigration. Graham supports offshore drilling.
President Obama is a strong advocate of the new bill. “Americans know what’s at stake by continuing our dependence on fossil fuels,” Obama said in a statement Wednesday. “For too long, Washington has kicked this challenge to the next generation. … Now is the time for America to take control of our energy future.”
Obama also said the bill would enhance national security by “beginning to break our dependence on foreign oil,” echoing protesters remarks during Senate hearings this week.
Obama said he wants to sign a bill this year. Skeptics say it may not get to the Senate floor this year due to a full calendar and partisan hostility.
The House already passed a similar measure last year.