Climate Bill ‘Out of Control,’ Former Clinton Aide Says

By Kim Chipman
August 18, 2009

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) — Cap-and-trade legislation to limit U.S. carbon dioxide emissions has “gotten out of control” and needs to be scaled back in Congress, said former Democratic Senator Timothy Wirth.

“The Republicans are right — it’s a cap-and-tax bill,” Wirth, a climate-change negotiator during President Bill Clinton’s administration, said in an Aug. 14 interview. “That’s what it is because they are raising revenue to do all sorts of things, especially to take care of the coal industry, and it makes no sense.”

A system to cap carbon emissions and then create a market for the trading of pollution allowances is the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s proposal to fight global warming. Wirth, who helped craft a successful emissions-trading market two decades ago that cut sulfur-dioxide pollution causing acid rain, is among Democrats questioning House-passed legislation set to be taken up next month in the Senate.

“I’m not critical of cap-and-trade,” said Wirth, head of the UN Foundation, a philanthropy established in 1998 with $1 billion from medial mogul Ted Turner. “But it has to be used in a targeted and disciplined way, and what has happened is it’s gotten out of control.”

Wirth, who represented Colorado in the Senate, says the House-passed plan is “too broad across the economy.” Instead of capping carbon pollution generally, the measure should focus solely on coal-fired power plants, he said.

The proposal echoes a campaign pledge made in 2000 by then Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, who vowed to control carbon emissions from utilities. As president, he changed his position, arguing that a mandatory cap on such heat- trapping pollution would cost jobs and harm the economy.

Since then, an increasing number of companies, such as Duke Energy Corp., the owner of utilities in the U.S. Southeast and Midwest, have called for federal rules on greenhouse-gas pollution so they know how to plan future business investments.

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