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US Senate Turns Down Legislation Targeting Greenhouse Gases - 2003-10-31


In a victory for the Bush administration, the U.S. Senate has rejected legislation aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that many scientists believe cause global warming.

The legislation would have imposed mandatory caps on emissions of heat-trapping gases by power plants, automobiles and factories. It called for limiting such emissions at 2000 levels by the year 2010.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, a co-sponsor of the bill, said there is solid evidence of rising earth temperatures and he displayed photographs of earth taken by the U.S. space agency NASA, depicting a melting arctic ice cap.

But opponents of the measure disputed evidence of global warming, and said the bill could hurt the U.S. economy. Speaking for the majority, Senator Christopher Bond of Missouri said, "I strongly believe this bill will cripple our economy, cripple our communities, and financially cripple many of our struggling families."

The bill was defeated on a 43 to 55 vote. Senator McCain sought to accentuate the positive, noting it was Congress' first vote on a global warming measure, and vowing it would not be the last. "The most important reason why we will be back," he said, "is because the situation [climate change], according to the overwhelming body of experts in America and the world believe the situation is going to get worse. As the situation worsens, there will be more public demand for us to address this issue."

The Bush administration opposes mandatory caps on carbon dioxide, warning they could eliminate jobs, hike electricity and natural gas prices. It prefers a voluntary approach.

President Bush in 2001 withdrew the nation from participating in the global Kyoto Protocol to cut carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels over a decade. The move angered U.S. allies.

Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a candidate for his party's nomination for President next year and the other sponsor of the bill, said despite his measure's defeat, U.S. allies should be heartened by the Senate vote.

He noted that a fellow presidential contender, Democratic Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, also supports the bill, but was out of town campaigning. That would bring support for the measure to 44 Senators.

Senator Lieberman said, "I believe and I hope that the 44 members of the U.S. Senate, four short of a majority, will give encouragement to people in Europe and Asia and around the world who share our concern about the warming of the planet, and will feel that we are together in this, and that eventually we will be together in this not only in spirit, but in law."

Senators Lieberman and McCain introduced their bill in the Senate last January.

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