Sen. John Kerry, prime mover of a comprehensive energy bill aimed at reducing carbon emissions and moving the country away from oil dependence, said Democratic senators will meet after their Memorial Day recess to figure out whether it is possible to bring the bill to the Senate floor this year. If the "election fear factor" can't be overcome, he said, referring to the upcoming midterm elections, he will push for the bill again next year.
At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Wednesday with reporters, Kerry said the American Power Act
he introduced with independent Sen. Joe Lieberman is "America's best opportunity to recalibrate our economy and move into the creation of millions of jobs" in the energy field. The bill aims to reduce carbon emissions by 17 percent through a cap-and-trade system allowing polluters to buy and sell emissions permits.
The Republican line these days is that any price on carbon is a tax that will cripple the economy. GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina had been a sponsor of the bill, but he dropped off a few weeks ago and now says smaller energy bills would be a better approach. Kerry rejected that idea, saying he stands by an earlier Graham statement that any energy bill that doesn't put a price on carbon would be "half-assed
Kerry said his message to the public is, "Don't be intimidated by the naysayers and the short-term political exploiters who call everything a tax, who say no to everything." He said only 2 percent of U.S. businesses are covered by the bill, and they are responsible for 75 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Utilities would not be covered until 2013, he said; heavy industry would be covered in 2016. Agriculture and small businesses would be completely exempt.
The coalition supporting the bill is "uncommon and unparalleled," Kerry said, so it would be "a relatively easy vote" for senators to make. He also said failure to pass a comprehensive energy policy would lead to regulation by the Environmental Protection Agency, without all the time and money his bill provides to cushion the transition for polluting industries.
Still, he acknowledged the bill might not make it to the floor this year. "Health care pushed us back. We've been dealt a difficult hand," he said. "I can't tell you for certain that this is going to happen."
, a centrist Democratic think tank, released a report Wednesday morning asserting that the carbon price proposed in the American Power Act would reduce American's energy bills and create nearly 1.9 million jobs by 2020.