Senate May Take Up `Smaller' Energy Bill, Set Renewables Bar, Reid Says

Legislation to cap greenhouse gas emissions from industrial polluters may be set aside this year in favor of a measure that ramps up electricity production from renewable sources such as wind farms, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

The “smaller energy bill,” which includes a national renewable electricity standard, has the support of “a couple of Republicans,” the Nevada Democrat said in an interview on Univision network’s “Al Punto” program. He didn’t name them.

A “big” energy bill limiting the greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels such as coal and oil doesn’t have Republican support, Reid said in yesterday’s interview. The 57 Democratic senators and the two independents who caucus with them usually need the support of at least one Republican to pass major legislation.

Senators John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, are to unveil a bill May 12 limiting greenhouse emissions, which scientists have linked to climate change. The two senators are trying to revamp stalled climate-change legislation that narrowly passed the U.S. House so it can become law this year.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, the only Republican to help Kerry and Lieberman write their bill, backed out of the effort last month in protest of Reid’s plan to bring up immigration legislation this year.

Graham Bows Out

Graham said last week that the oil spill from an April 20 rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, together with a contentious debate over immigration, would make it “impossible” to pass a climate-change bill. The South Carolina Republican has pushed for expanded offshore oil and natural-gas drilling to be included in such legislation.

Reid hasn’t decided whether to try to pass an energy bill that includes greenhouse gas limits or a smaller measure, Jim Manley, a spokesman for the Senate majority leader, said in an e-mail today. Reid’s choice depends on how lawmakers and the public react to the Kerry-Lieberman proposal, Manley said.

A smaller energy bill would be based on the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which was approved by the Senate energy committee last June, Manley said.

The bill would, among other things, require utilities to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021, set new energy efficiency standards and open more of the eastern Gulf to oil and gas drilling.

It cleared the committee in a 15-8 vote, with four Republicans in favor and two Democrats opposed. Kerry and Lieberman said May 7 they can “secure the necessary votes” to pass their climate-change bill this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Simon Lomax in Washington at slomax@bloomberg.net.

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