(Reuters) – President Barack Obama pledged on Tuesday to keep pushing for legislation to fight climate change despite a move in the U.S. Senate to focus energy reform more narrowly on offshore drilling.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is expected to unveil a bill later on Tuesday that does not include setting caps on carbon emissions — the key element of a more comprehensive energy and climate bill that did not find sufficient support in the Senate.
Obama said the revised bill was “an important step in the right direction” but he said it would not be enough.
“I want to emphasize it’s only the first step and I intend to keep pushing for broader reform, including climate legislation,” he told reporters in the White House Rose Garden after meeting with congressional leaders.
“If we’ve learned anything from the tragedy in the Gulf, it’s that our current energy policy is unsustainable.”
Among its provisions, the bill will likely force companies to spend more money to cover the costs of oil spills, raising the liability cap to $10 billion or more from $75 million.
Obama did not set out a timetable for a future climate push and it is very unlikely that any legislation on the subject will be passed this year.
If likely Republican gains in November elections change the balance of power in Congress, climate change legislation would face an even more uncertain future.
Obama’s comments were likely meant as a nod to the international community and environmentalists, who are counting on U.S. action to help advance U.N. talks to form an international pact to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fight global warming.
Obama said climate change legislation would create high-wage U.S. jobs in the renewable energy sector.
“We can’t afford to stand by as our dependence on foreign oil deepens, as we keep on pumping out the deadly pollutants that threaten our air and our water and the lives and livelihoods of our people,” he said.
Article by Jeff Mason; edited by Eric Beech; appearing courtesy Reuters.