Climate Change Bill Is About to Be Tested

The Warner-Lieberman measure could move to the Senate floor soon.

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Sens. John Warner and Joseph Lieberman certainly have drawn criticism from both the left and the right for their climate change bill, the America's Climate Security Act of 2007. But have the Virginia Republican and Connecticut independent amassed enough lukewarm support from the middle to gain passage?

The answer may be known soon, since Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer would like to bring the measure to the Senate floor for a vote before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali on December 3. Boxer views Warner-Lieberman, an economywide, market-based program of capping emissions and allowing businesses leeway to trade pollution permits, as a "strong framework and solid foundation to build upon."

Many environmental groups similarly view the measure as a good starting point, but others blast it as containing "obscene" giveaways to polluters. The American Council for Capital Formation, renowned for its anticorporate-tax lobbying on behalf of the nation's biggest businesses, slams the bill as one that will lead to higher energy prices, lost jobs, and reduced gross domestic product. But some corporations, like the nation's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, say it's a "solid starting point."

Head counters think the bill needs one more vote to pass Boxer's committee, but too far of a lurch left to capture Vermont independent Bernie Sanders's now-unlikely vote may lose moderates who now support it, like Montana Democrat Max Baucus. Republican John Barrasso from the nation's biggest coal state, Wyoming, voted no at the subcommittee, but gaining his vote at the full committee may not be out of the question. He plans to fight for an amendment to make the University of Wyoming the new home of a national center for clean coal research.

Stay tuned to see whether the bill's advocates can hit upon the sweeteners that don't sour the moderate coalition they're trying to build. Boxer's committee plans another hearing next week.