Greenhouse gas debate at full boil
Gingrich says plan 'punishes' Americans
WASHINGTON - Former vice president Al Gore, a leading voice on climate change, urged lawmakers yesterday to overcome partisan differences and pass legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, but Democrats and Republicans sparred even more vigorously over the cost of dealing with global warming.
Gore, who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, told a congressional hearing that "the dire and growing threat" of a warmer earth requires the parties to unite to deal with the environmental threat. He endorsed a House Democratic bill that would limit carbon dioxide and other pollution linked to warming.
"It is a challenge that this Congress must rise to," Gore said. "I wish I could find the words to get past the partisan divide that both sides have contributed to. . . . It should be something we do together in our national interest."
He said he was worried that a US failure to act could lead to "a slow-motion collapse" of international negotiations on climate.
But former House speaker Newt Gingrich argued that the Democratic proposal would "punish the American people" by imposing higher energy costs and threatening jobs.
"This bill is an energy tax," Gingrich told the House committee. "An energy tax punishes senior citizens, it punishes rural Americans; if you use electricity it punishes you. This bill will increase your cost of living and may kill your job."
Representative Henry A. Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and coauthor of the bill with Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, shot back that Gingrich was resorting to "the old scare tactics" designed to undermine any congressional effort to address the problem.
"When American people hear the statements you have made today, they get scared, which I think is exactly what is intended," a visibly angry Waxman told Gingrich, a potential presidential contender in 2012 and a leading voice of the GOP.
Gore, the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee, defended the science that warns of a potential climate crisis later this century and insisted the blueprint outlined by House Democrats would address the problem without causing soaring prices. He and other Democrats argued that the development of renewable and energy-efficient technologies will produce jobs and mitigate cost increases.
But the House Republican leader, John Boehner of Ohio, called Gore's testimony deserving of "another Oscar" - alluding to the recognition received by "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore's film on climate change.
The House bill calls for mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by midcentury. It also would require utilities to produce one-quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and impose new efficiency requirements.