(Incorporates material from CLIMATE-USA/BUSH (UPDATE 1))
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
WASHINGTON, June 2 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush slammed a U.S. Senate climate change bill set for debate on Monday, saying the measure would cost the American economy $6 trillion.
The bill’s supporters expected this argument, and maintain the legislation’s cap-and-trade provisions would in fact create jobs and that the cost of doing nothing about climate change justifies action now.
“I urge the Congress to be very careful about running up enormous costs for future generations of Americans,” Bush said at a White House meeting on economy and tax cuts. “We’ll work with the Congress, but the idea of a huge spending bill fueled by tax increases isn’t the right way to proceed.”
He said the bill, known as the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act and set for its first debate on the Senate floor late on Monday, “would impose roughly $6 trillion of new costs on the American economy.”
The Bush administration has consistently opposed economy-wide measures to limit climate-warming emissions of carbon dioxide. The United States is alone among major developed countries in rejecting the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol.
Carbon dioxide, which is emitted by fossil-fueled vehicles and coal-fired power plants as well as from natural sources, is a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee and who has shepherded this legislation to the Senate floor, offered a blistering response to Bush’s comments.
“Just when we finally have a chance to get off of Big Oil and foreign oil, you can count on the Bush administration to fight us every step of the way,” she said in a statement. “Where were they when gas prices went to 250 percent of what they were at the start of this administration? They did nothing.”
The Lieberman-Warner bill contains tax relief for consumer energy costs, Boxer said.
“As you can imagine, our opposition to this will be quite strong and we’ll be making these points throughout the week,” Keith Hennessey, director of President George W. Bush’s National Economic Council, said at a White House forum on the economy and taxes.
U.S. gross domestic product could be reduced by as much as 7 percent in the year 2050 and gasoline prices — already at record highs in the United States — could soar by as much as 53 cents a gallon by 2030, he said.
The legislation the Senate will debate, which is not expected to become law this year amid a presidential election, could cut total U.S. global warming emissions by 66 percent by 2050, according to a summary of the measure.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would drop by about 2 percent per year between 2012 and 2050, based on 2005 emission levels, under the measure.
The bill would cap carbon emissions from 86 percent of U.S. facilities, and emissions from those would be 19 percent below current levels by 2020 and 71 percent below current levels by 2050, according to a summary of the bill’s details released by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
The Bush administration has consistently opposed an across-the-board cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide. (Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by David Alexander and Eric Beech)