Cost drives Senate climate debate

WASHINGTON The Senate will begin considering legislation Monday that would mandate a reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from power plants, refineries, factories and transportation, cutting heat-trapping pollution by two-thirds by mid-century.

The debate opens as Americans are reeling over $4 gasoline and soaring expenses to heat and cool their homes. That's making it all that harder to sell the merits of a bill that would transform the nation's energy industries and -- as its critics will argue -- cause energy prices to increase even more.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., one of the chief sponsors of the bill, says computer studies suggest the overall impact on energy costs could be modest with several projections showing overall continued economic growth. The measure calls for tens of billions of dollars in tax breaks to offset higher energy bills, its sponsors say.

Returning from the Memorial Day recess, lawmakers also have to fix the international food aid and trade components of a farm bill that, through a printing error, were left out of the parchment version that President Bush signed into law last month. And the House and Senate are still working on a bill to fund the Iraq war another year, expand G.I. Bill college benefits and strengthen New Orleans levees.

While this week's Senate debate on global warming is viewed as a watershed in climate change politics, both sides of the issue acknowledge the likelihood of getting the bill passed is slim, at least this year.

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