Congressional global warming fight uncertain

MINNEAPOLIS -- The global warming battle needs to be fought in Congress, energy experts said during a conference Tuesday, but no one knows when that skirmish will begin or end.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The global warming battle needs to be fought in Congress, energy experts said during a conference Tuesday, but no one knows when that skirmish will begin or end.

One of the country's top experts told an environment, energy and economy conference it could come next year. Or in 2010.

Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, said that the good news about global warming is the public now is tuned in after years of disinterest.

"You know times are changing when a movie starring (former Vice President) Al Gore wins an Oscar," she said.

Minnesota's freshman U.S. senator said that she also cannot predict when anti-global warming legislation will pass, but said it needs to happen soon so businesses know the rules under which they must operate.


Once Congress sets the guidelines, "let the market do the work," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said.

Klobuchar agreed with something Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in an earlier interview - that government must "kick-start a few things here and there just to get it going."

University of Minnesota Professor Alfred Marcus, on the other hand, said higher taxes and other factors of a "robust public policy" are needed "to influence our behavior."

While differences remain, Klobuchar said she sees a political and public shift toward making more of an effort to change policy.

The public is leaning more toward government action, in part, because of stories like those she hears from hunters near Hibbing, who are seeing fewer wetlands and, thus, fewer animals. And resorts such as Lutsen Mountain in northeastern Minnesota are seeing fewer skiers because less snow is falling.

The senator used an example from her Greenland trip earlier this year to illustrate why she wants action. A few years ago ice sheets covered the spot where she stood, but now Greenlanders grow potatoes there.

In a Tuesday interview, Klobuchar expressed optimism that Republicans and Democrats may finally be able to surmount problems keeping them from passing legislation battling global warming. President Bush has prevented that from happening so far, Klobuchar said, but a Monday White House meeting may have signaled a change.

The University of Minnesota conference came a day after Gore and Bush met privately for 40 minutes, talking about global warming all the time.


"He was very gracious in setting up the meeting and it was a very good and substantive conversation," Gore told reporters after the meeting.

Why government needs to set guidelines was made abundantly clear during the conference, when speakers disagreed on how to solve the global warming problem.

Marcus said government emphasis on technology to solve the global warming problem is off base. While new technologies such as hybrid cars are good, Marcus said, higher gasoline taxes and fees on vehicles that get low gasoline mileage would be more effective.

But Excel Energy President Richard Kelly said just the opposite: "I think technology is the way we solve these problems, not with a carbon tax."

Some of the 200-plus at the conference would like to see carbon taxes, fees assessed on the use of carbon-based fuels such as oil, coal and other fossil fuels.

The leading U.S. Senate bill, a controversial measure being considered by a committee that includes Klobuchar, would limit carbon emissions to 2005 levels five years from now, then gradually reduce levels through 2050. Many believe the release of such gases leads to global warming.

"It gives us a good starting point to reduce greenhouse gases," Klobuchar said.

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