Political ardor cools for climate-change bill

Senate action on a cap-and-trade climate bill has been put off until at least next spring, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this week.

That delay may well mean that no climate bill will pass the full Senate until at least a year from now, after the 2010 election. Senators facing re-election, including Democratic ones, will be reluctant to cast a vote for a highly controversial measure when that vote that could be used as a bludgeon against them on the campaign trail.

That’s fine with us. As we’ve noted repeatedly, serious questions remain about the cost of the bill, its impact on U.S. energy costs and its likely effectiveness in actually reducing carbon emissions.

The House of Representatives narrowly passed a cap-and-trade bill last summer and a Senate version of the bill was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee early this month.

But the Senate also has on its plate new regulations regarding oversight of the financial industry, and a proposed massive overhaul of our health care system that’s even more controversial than the cap-and-trade bill.

At the same time, unemployment has topped 10 percent, and even President Barack Obama is now talking about additional tax credits for businesses to encourage them to hire more workers.

While supporters of the cap-and-trade bill claim it will generate many new green-energy jobs, opponents argue it would result in a net jobs loss. They say cutbacks in the conventional energy sector — such as coal and petroleum — that would result if the bill is passed, coupled with an overall slowdown in the economy, would be job killers.

Those concerns are a big reason that some Senate Democrats, such as those in coal-producing and industrial states, are hesitant to move forward with the bill, leading to Reid’s announcement Tuesday following a meeting of the Senate Democratic Caucus that nothing would occur regarding the bill before spring.

In the midst of a serious recession, with little indication that the job market will soon rebound, polls show that climate-change legislation is not high on the list of what most Americans think is important. So , it should come as no surprise that climate-change legislation has been removed from the Senate’s front burner.


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