WASHINGTON (CN) – Amid Republican opposition, Democratic leaders introduced a climate change bill in the Senate Wednesday that would cut more greenhouse gasses than that passed by the House. “Our health, our security, our economy, our environment, all demand we reinvent the way America uses energy,” Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry said in the ceremony held outside the Capitol.
The 821-page Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act would require that U.S. emissions fall 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, stricter than the 17 percent drop mandated by the House bill.
Both the House and the Senate bills require an 83 percent drop from 2005 levels by 2050.
Kerry and California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer co-authored the bill and it will now be taken up in the Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer chairs.
In promoting their legislation, both lawmakers claimed the energy legislation isn’t just about a healthy environment, but also national and economic security.
Kerry said it will divert American dollars that currently flow towards hostile nations, and which get into the pockets of terrorist organizations.
In predicting that the bill will stimulate the economy, Boxer referred to a report by the University of California, Berkley published this week that said the House energy bill, passed in June, would create up to 1.9 million jobs by 2020.
“We know clean energy is the ticket to strong, stable economic growth,” she said.
And of course, the bill tackles climate change by reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, which are driving global warming and ocean acidification.
“Let’s not quit until we have fulfilled our responsibility to our children and our grandchildren,” Boxer declared.
Farms, homes, and small businesses would be exempt from emissions controls. Still, companies that emit 25,000 tons of carbon a year would be subject to restrictions.
But a cost control provision has been put in place for these companies- a top price of $28 per ton of greenhouse gasses emitted.
The details of how pollution allowances will be awarded have yet to be worked out.
The act is supposed to be budget neutral.
In what is widely viewed as a concession to Republicans, the act lends more support to natural gas and nuclear power than the House bill.
Despite this, Republican support already appears lacking.
Republicans who sit on Boxer’s committee wrote a letter saying they would not be rushed into voting on the bill.
And Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe released a statement calling the act a “massive energy tax that will destroy jobs, raise electricity and gasoline prices, and make America less competitive.”
“While I’ve noted that the Democrats have the votes to pass this bill through the Environment and Public Works Committee,” he said, “that does not mean Republicans will stand down.”
The bill’s introduction comes just months before the heavily anticipated United Nations climate-change conference in Denmark, where world leaders plan to finish negotiations on how to tackle the problem. An agreement would take effect in 2012, when part of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions, expires.
Congress must ratify such an agreement, so many are watching to see how far Congress is willing to go in fighting climate change.
Obama already expressed strong support for emissions reductions last week during a UN summit on climate change. He outlined before the international community his aims to double renewable energy in three years, and has plans to track, for the first time, nation-wide greenhouse gas pollution.
The United States is responsible for roughly 20 percent of the world’s emissions, making it the world’s second largest greenhouse gas polluter, after China.