U.S. lawmakers were set on Tuesday to begin wrangling over a climate change bill aimed at reducing carbon dioxide and other pollutants with Republicans objecting that the legislation would burden the economy with higher energy costs.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee was digging in for several days of arduous debate over the Democrats' 932-page bill. Chairman Henry Waxman has predicted his panel will have enough Democratic support for approval this week.
But first, Republicans are expected to try to surgically remove the heart of the proposal -- the establishment of a cap and trade system that would gradually reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that utilities, steelmakers, oil refineries and other companies could emit.
President Barack Obama has put climate control legislation at the top of his agenda and would like to see significant progress by December, when world leaders meet in Copenhagen to consider coordinated steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Our economy is suffering, we are squandering billions of dollars to feed our addiction on foreign oil and our environment is overheating, Waxman said during legislator's opening statements on the bill on Monday.
With its mandate to reduce emissions 17 percent by 2020 from 2005 levels, Waxman said the bill would shore up the U.S. economy by encouraging new high-tech jobs while avoiding the ecological disasters linked to global warming.
Republicans predicted energy costs would skyrocket under the bill and they have reportedly prepared hundreds of amendments to try to modify the Democratic bill.
Joe Barton, the senior Republican on the committee, warned Waxman: You are about to embark on an episode of putting the entire American economy, which is the world's largest, through an absolute economic wringer.
Even so, with a 36-23 majority in the committee, Democrats are likely to defeat Republicans' moves to kill cap and trade.
Under cap and trade, an ever-decreasing number of carbon pollution permits would be available and companies that still lack the technology to meet the lower pollution requirements could buy more permits from companies that no longer need their full quotas.
(Editing by Chris Wilson)