Congress to pass energy bill this year: White House
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers will pass major energy legislation, possibly including measures to address climate change, by the end of this year, a top White House official said on Sunday.
"I do know this, at the end of this first year of Congress there will be an energy bill on the president's desk," White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
When asked whether the bill would include a controversial cap-and-trade system aimed at curbing emissions of carbon dioxide, Emanuel said "our goal is to get that done. We will see."
Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin hearings this week on proposed legislation that would limit greenhouse gas emissions and require companies to acquire permits to release carbon into the atmosphere.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman has said he wants the bill, which includes measures to boost energy efficiency and develop clean energy technology, to pass the committee in late May and the House of Representatives later in 2009.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also a Democrat, said he hoped the Senate by the middle of 2009 would pass cap-and-trade legislation, which allows firms emitting more carbon dioxide than the limit to buy credits from those that emit less.
No major bill addressing the issue has been introduced in the chamber.
Democrats control Congress.
But the attempt to enact new climate change laws at a time when the U.S. economy is in a deep recession has raised concerns among Republicans and some Democrats, who worry that doing so would raise costs for consumers and industry.
Emanuel said it was understandable that there would be some objections to a program of this magnitude, but he disagreed with the criticism that the cap-and-trade system was a broad base tax increase.
"No, what I believe is we're going to alter how we deal with our energy policy," Emanuel said.
Congress faces pressure to act on climate change following the Environmental Protection Agency's finding last week that carbon dioxide posed a danger to human health, possibly paving the way for federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Emanuel reiterated that the White House supported a legislative solution for reducing climate warming emissions.
(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Paul Simao)
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