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Cap and Trade Bill Hearings Begin in Senate

BY Quinn Bowman  October 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST

Sen. Barbara Boxer, AFP/Getty images

The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009, which would create limits for emissions of carbon dioxide and allow companies to buy and sell emissions credits to each other, is another major domestic policy undertaking by Democrats in Congress and the White House.

While major health insurance reform legislation is dominating Congress’ attention, Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerry of Massachusetts, the coauthors of the climate change bill, are pushing it to the forefront on Capitol Hill ahead of the United Nations Copenhagen climate summit in December. At the Copenhagen summit, nations from around the world will try to create a global framework for dealing with emissions and warming.

“We’ve reached another milestone as we move to a clean energy future, creating millions of jobs and protecting our children from dangerous pollution,” Boxer said in a news release introducing the legislation. Watch her introduction of the bill.

The aim of the bill – to reduce carbon emissions, which scientists say contribute to the warming of the earth — is also known as “cap and trade.” One of the provisions mandates that emissions levels would be 20 percent below their 2005 levels by 2020.

The Senate bill mirrors legislation already introduced in the House of Representatives, American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. An Environmental Protection Agency study of both the House and Senate bills said the policies, if enacted, would transform the way the United States produces and uses energy.

The hearing will also feature testimony from the Obama administration: Energy Secretary Steven Chu, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Republicans on the committee were critical of the bill. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said the bill would make it harder for Americans to support their families, although he understands that climate change is a problem.

“I have no problem with the problem, I have a problem with the solution,” Alexander said.

He proposed that instead of capping emissions, the U.S. should focus on producing energy in a new ways – such as producing 100 new nuclear plants in 20 years, explore offshore for natural gas and focusing on electrifying cars and trucks.