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Senate energy bill is at the mercy of political climate change

The tradeoffs and loopholes for industry in the Senate energy bill may create the very uncertainty on energy prices that the industry wants to end.

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A climate-change bill with the best chance of passing Congress was unveiled Wednesday – all 987 pages of it.

Despite being riddled with troublesome compromises, the proposed America Power Act is as close to providing certainty about America’s energy future as is politically possible these days.

Introduced by Sens. John Kerry (D) and Joe Lieberman (I), the bill sets long-range targets for the United States to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions, timetables for industry to comply, and specific subsidies for clean energies, among other things.

On paper, at least, these measures would raise the cost for energy derived from coal and oil in order to achieve the kind of price certainty that businesses crave after nearly a quarter century of hot debate about how to curb climate change. Without higher fossil-fuel prices, cleaner energy technologies with little or no carbon emissions would not make attractive investments.

Even among those with doubts about global warming, Washington’s dithering over energy policy, combined with a threat by the Environmental Protection Agency to take bold regulatory action without Congress, has helped create momentum behind the Kerry-Leiberman measure.

To win passage, the bill throws bones to powerful interests, such as unions, electric utilities, and coal states. It invests in still-unknown technology to capture coal emissions, for example. It also delays emissions enforcement for many parts of the economy.

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