GOP ready to fight over global warming

By Steve Hargreaves, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It's no secret that many Republicans are deeply skeptical of global warming.

"The earth will end only when God decides it's time to be over," Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., said while quoting the Bible in a House hearing last year. "This earth will not be destroyed by a flood."

Shimkus is now one of four contenders to head the House Committee on Energy and Commerce when the Republicans take the reins in January.

Also vying for the leadership post: Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who apologized to BP for what he called a White House "shakedown" when it agreed to establishing the $20 billion Gulf oil spill trust fund; Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida, who wants to open up Alaska's wildlife refuge to drilling; and Michigan's Fred Upton.

Upton is considered the front-runner and probably the most moderate of the bunch. He has vowed to eliminate an offshoot of the committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

"The American people do not need Congress to spend millions of dollars to write reports and fly around the world," Upton wrote in a recent editorial. "We must terminate this wasteful committee."

The new Congress is not expected to do much on the energy front. A broad plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and use the revenue to fund alternative energy -- known as cap-and-trade -- is dead.

A spokesman for presumed Speaker of the House John Boehner said Republicans support all forms of energy development, including renewables and nuclear power. But he said any money for them must come from expanded domestic oil and gas drilling -- a prospect that also looks dim given the concerns raised by the BP spill.

Target: EPA

But there is one thing the newly empowered Republicans are sure to go after: the Environmental Protection Agency.

When Obama was pushing his cap-and-trade plan last year, the EPA was quietly working on the sidelines to draft up rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Heavily targeted would be power plants, refineries, and heavy industries such as steel and concrete.

The EPA was under court order to do so, having lost a Supreme Court challenge by the state of Massachusetts under the Bush administration. The high court said that if EPA classified greenhouse gases as a public health threat, which it did, then it must regulate them.

Obama and his advisers claimed they didn't want EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, preferring instead to get the job done with a Congress-approved cap-and-trade plan. But many analysts saw EPA's moves as an implicit threat to lawmakers: pass cap-and-trade or else deal with EPA.

But cap-and-trade failed. Now the Republicans -- along with many coal-state Democrats -- are scrambling to stop the "or else" part of that equation.

"Unquestionably, there will be more oversight of the EPA," said Roger Patrick, an environmental lawyer at Mayer Brown. "The president might even sign a bill to limit EPA's authority."

Republican lawmakers have made their intent clear.

"The EPA is working on a regulatory train wreck," wrote Upton. "If the EPA continues unabated, jobs will be shipped to China and India as energy costs skyrocket."

Obama has been a bit more ambiguous.

In a speech following the big Democratic losses this past election day, the president said, "I think EPA wants help from the legislature on this. I don't think that, you know, the desire is to somehow be protective of their powers here."

But others question just how much interference from Congress Obama wants.

"The administration will not want to open up a major rift with liberals and environmentalists over this, particularly as it seeks to energize its base looking ahead to 2012," said Divya Reddy, an energy policy analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

Just last week, EPA issued guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions that will take effect this January. The guidelines were not particularly strict, which analysts took as a sign that the agency was willing to work with industry, but also as a sign that it plans on pressing ahead with its plan to regulate these gases

It seems that dealing with EPA is becoming a reality.  To top of page

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