While declaring that, "Carbon pollution threatens our future and human life itself," Sen. Bob Casey expressed reservations yesterday about the major climate change proposal awaiting action in the Senate.
In a speech at Carnegie Mellon University, Mr. Casey emphasized the potential for green energy initiatives to boost employment as well as enhance national security. In his 25-minute address, he sketched an optimistic picture of how the transition to a clean energy economy could revitalize the state's and the nation's economies.
But the ambitious overall goals he outlined were balanced by cautious observations on the pending energy measure. He praised the work of his colleagues, Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and John Kerry, D-Mass., in drafting the legislative package designed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. But in a subsequent interview, he stopped short of saying he would vote for the measure as he argued for a variety of changes in it.
"I want to do some more work on it before we say we support it," Mr. Casey said of the bill, a companion to the so-called cap-and-trade bill that passed the House earlier this year.
Mr. Casey noted that the Senate measure calls for a reduction of 20 percent in greenhouse gas emissions compared to the levels emitted in 2005. The House bill specifies a reduction target of 17 percent.
The senator predicted that the Senate bill's goal would spark debate. The House figure, he said, "is more manageable."
Mr. Casey also said he would work to include retraining funds for workers whose jobs were affected by shifts to more energy-efficient technologies. The coal state lawmaker also said that the bill needed to do more to support carbon capture and sequestration technologies to allow the country to continue to rely on power generated from coal.
While noting that the existing bill would provide support for carbon capture initiatives, he said he would work to include "a lot more research and development."
Mr. Casey would not put a dollar figure on the changes he advocates, noting that would be worked out during the anticipated Senate debate on the measure. Asked how he would vote on the bill in its current form, Mr. Casey said, "I won't have to make that decision, because I think it's going to be amended."
Handicapping its chances with the entire Senate, he said, "If I were guessing, I would say we need some more work before it will pass."
He cautioned, however, that despite the prodding and criticism of other nations, there was little chance of the bill being enacted before 2010. Mr. Casey said that the weight of other legislation, notably health care and annual appropriations bills, would make it virtually impossible for the Senate to act on the legislation before the opening of climate change talks next month in Copenhagen. The senator, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, argued that the Senate's delay should not be an impediment of the worldwide climate change talks.
"So I hope that our international friends don't prejudge or misjudge what we've been trying to do," he said.
"If we craft the right kind of energy bill," he said later in his address, "we can take control of our nation's economic, energy and national security while mitigating he impact on our workers and businesses."
Politics Editor James O'Toole can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562.