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|Republican Scott Brown's upset victory
on Tuesday in the special U.S. Senate race has dealt a further blow
to Democrats' drive to pass a climate control bill in 2010.
Last June, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a cap and
trade bill that would require reductions in industrial emissions of
carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the next four
decades. It also would allow pollution permits to be traded in a new
But the global warming bill has languished in the Senate, where some
members have been trying to find a compromise. Once Brown takes
office, Democrats will hold 59 of the 100 votes in the Senate and
the Republicans 41. The bill needs 60 votes to overcome procedural
hurdles that could block passage.
Here's a look at possible impacts of the Massachusetts election on
the climate bill:
* In electing a conservative Republican, Massachusetts picked
someone who campaigned against cap and trade and argued it would
saddle consumers and businesses with higher costs. Brown will
replace the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a liberal icon who had been
a supporter of the climate bill. It's now even tougher to pass the
bill in the Senate this year.
* Republicans who oppose requiring industries to reduce carbon
pollution will argue the vote was a message to President Barack
Obama that one of his top priorities is out of sync with voters.
Many of them will be further emboldened to oppose any comprehensive
climate change bill this year.
* Democrats will ramp up their rhetoric that a climate change bill
will create and not lose jobs during these tough economic times.
"This is the single best opportunity we have for energizing the
economy, creating jobs and getting cleaner air, and if you sell
those arguments you've got a winning issue," Senator John Kerry told
Reuters on Tuesday in an e-mailed statement.
* The election result could give foreign countries such as China and
India -- both huge carbon emitters like the United States -- further
reservations about promising to set their own emission-reduction
goals if Washington can provide no clear message that it also will
do so. The turmoil that plagued the Copenhagen treaty talks last
month seems likely to continue at the next U.N. conference in Mexico
City next November.
* Alternatives to cap and trade -- and the trillion-dollar market
for pollution permits it would create -- could gain more traction.
Those include less ambitious legislation encouraging the use of more
alternative fuels, such as solar and wind power. Others likely will
see an opening for pushing a pollution cap but without the trading
mechanism, or a straight-forward tax on carbon. Republicans likely
will be emboldened to seek more U.S. oil drilling and additional
government help to expand nuclear power.
* Environmental groups will oppose the oil drilling and nuclear
power moves unless they are coupled with aggressive steps to control
carbon emissions throughout the U.S. economy. They may conclude that
a climate change bill's best prospects will come in 2011, with the
congressional elections behind them. But they would be gambling that
Democrats won't lose too many seats in November.
* The Environmental Protection Agency will continue down the path
toward regulating carbon emissions for the first time. The Obama
administration prefers a comprehensive law instead of regulation but
hopes the threat of regulation will encourage some Republicans to
eventually join onto a compromise bill.