WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - Congress will not be able to pass legislation capping carbon emissions in 2009 if the economy continues its downward slide, a key Republican senator said on Monday.
“If the economy is still where we are right now, I would suggest to you it’s not happening this year,” Senator Lisa Murkowski told reporters at a Platts Energy Podium.
Murkowski, ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said she did not think lawmakers would burden consumers with the higher energy costs associated with a cap and trade system during a significant recession.
U.S. President Barack Obama has called on Congress to implement a program that would limit carbon dioxide emissions and require companies to purchase permits to spew climate-warming greenhouse gases.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said last week that he would try to have a cap-and-trade bill approved by the Senate by mid-year.
Murkowski questioned whether these timelines would be met for developing such a complex program. She said lawmakers have not reached a general consensus on issues such as what to do with any funds generated by the system.
“There are so many different fundamental disagreements we may get to before we even talk about the parameters of the legislation,” she said.
She added that Congress should not rush to meet artificial deadlines and that it might be years before a climate-change program is established.
“This is major. This is absolutely a game-changer in terms of the nation’s economy as it relates to energy,” Murkowski said. “So, if we just kind of throw something together because we have to do it quick, shame on us.” (Editing by Christian Wiessner)