Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Climate Change Efforts on Front Burner in U.S. with Keystone a Flashpoint

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Climate Change Efforts on Front Burner in U.S. with Keystone a Flashpoint

Article excerpt

Climate change efforts afoot in U.S.


WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's State of the Union clarion call for action on environmental issues has put climate change at centre stage in the U.S. capital -- and the Keystone XL pipeline is once again playing the role of the villain.

As the Government Accountability Office added climate change to its list of "high risk" fiscal issues that threaten big costs to taxpayers, two liberal U.S. senators introduced legislation Thursday aimed at putting a price on carbon.

The bill from Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, and Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, would levy greenhouse gas emission fees on U.S. power plants and at the point of importation, meaning Alberta oilsands bitumen travelling through TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline would be levied as it entered the United States.

The money raised -- a staggering $1.2 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office -- would then be used to fund investments in clean energy. The bill would also provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices.

While the legislation has dim hopes of being signed into law, since several Democratic lawmakers hail from oil- or coal-rich states, the senators are attempting to keep climate change in the national spotlight in the midst of Obama's newfound commitment to environmental issues.

The president was roundly criticized during his first term by American environmentalists who accused him of failing to push hard enough for meaningful climate change legislation.

"We have the opportunity right now, with the president's commitment in the State of the Union, to make progress," Sanders, flanked by some of the prominent environmentalists arrested a day earlier at a White House Keystone protest, told a news conference on Capitol Hill.

"The president can and must use his authority to cut down on power plant pollution, and reject the dangerous Keystone XL project. But he cannot give up on a comprehensive legislative solution, and neither can we. We will never fully deal with this crisis until Congress passes strong legislation."

Boxer vowed the proposals would be on the Senate floor for a vote by the summer, the first time in four years that a major climate bill is poised to make it that far.

There are growing concerns among Keystone proponents in the U.S. capital that Obama may insist on something in return for approving the pipeline, including a carbon levy of the type Sanders and Boxer are proposing. That could significantly increase the costs of importing bitumen from Alberta's carbon-intensive oilsands into the United States.

But as Obama himself suggested Tuesday in his State of the Union address, Boxer has pointed out that the president might not even need Congress to act on climate change. …

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