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January 13, 2003
Volume 81, Number 2
CENEAR 81 2 p. 5
ISSN 0009-2347


Senators launch legislative effort for U.S. cap-and-trade system


Greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. industries, petroleum refiners, and power companies would be capped and ratcheted down under a bipartisan Senate bill announced last week.

BIPARTISAN McCain (left) and Lieberman say U.S. needs to be proactive in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the legislation is a direct challenge to the Bush Administration, which advocates more research before formulating policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The McCain-Lieberman measure would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to their 2000 levels by 2010 and lower emissions to 1990 levels by 2016. It would establish a trading program similar to the one currently used to control releases of pollutants that cause acid rain. Companies would receive emission allowances capping their releases of greenhouse gases. Those that trim their emissions below that level could sell their extra allowances to firms that exceed their emission ceilings.

The legislation would apply only to entities that emit more than 10,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually. It would affect electricity generation, industry, and commercial enterprises. The transportation sector would be covered, too, though indirectly--refiners would need an allowance for each unit of petroleum product they sell that, when burned, produces a metric ton of greenhouse gases.

The bill would require less stringent cuts than the Kyoto protocol, a 1997 treaty that calls for the U.S. to pare back its emissions to 7% below its 1990 levels as averaged over the years 2008–12. The pact is unpopular in Congress, and the Bush Administration has pledged that the U.S. will not join the Kyoto protocol.

Lieberman and McCain said that their legislation, which had not been formally introduced at press time, will spur innovation and demonstrate to allies that the U.S. is serious about addressing global climate change.

"Too much attention has been focused on the uncertainties and not enough on what is known in tackling the problem at hand," McCain said at a Jan. 8 hearing. "It's time for the U.S. to do its part."

"By capping emissions and tapping market forces to meet these goals, this bill will heat up American innovation and cool down our changing climate," Lieberman said.

McCain assumed the chairmanship of the Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation last week as the GOP took over the Senate. He will hold hearings on the legislation and attempt to move it to the Senate floor. But the bill faces an uncertain future if the Environment & Public Works Committee must approve it before a Senate vote. That panel is now headed by Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is sympathetic to oil industry concerns and takes a dim view of efforts on climate change.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) said he hopes to garner bipartisan support in the House of Representatives for similar legislation.

Several U.S. companies, including chemical giant DuPont, are already cutting greenhouse gases. DuPont has slashed its emissions to 60% below 1990 levels through emission controls and energy-efficiency measures. DuPont said last week it is evaluating the McCain-Lieberman proposal.

The National Association of Manufacturers expressed strong opposition to the McCain-Lieberman legislation, saying the measure "would simply act as a harsh energy tax."

A summary of the bill is at


Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2003 American Chemical Society

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[C&EN, Sept. 16, 2002]

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[C&EN, Sept. 16, 2002]

Clearing The Air
[C&EN, Mar. 11, 2002]

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