Page last updated at 03:35 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 04:35 UK

US senators unveil climate change bill

Chimney in Dayton, Ohio, file image
The bill is a wholesale review of US energy policy

US senators have unveiled details of a long-awaited bill on climate change - a key plank of President Barack Obama's domestic agenda.

Senator John Kerry revealed that the bill proposes cutting US carbon emissions by 17% by 2020.

He said he was aiming for the US to be the world's "clean-energy leader".

The bill also includes provisions for relaxing rules on offshore oil-drilling - highly controversial in the wake of the huge Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Mr Obama had announced plans to ease drilling restrictions earlier this year, but the oil spill forced a rethink.

The bill unveiled by Mr Kerry now includes provisions to allow states to veto proposed drilling if they can prove it poses a risk.

Mr Obama has given his backing to Mr Kerry's proposals.

"The challenges we face - underscored by the immense tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico - are reason to redouble our efforts to reform our nation's energy policies," Mr Obama said.

Republican sweeteners

The bill has been languishing for months after earlier versions raised vehement objections from Republicans.

Mr Kerry said the stakes were now "sky high".

Richard Black
Clearly, the bill has been too much of a behemoth for many analysts to get their heads around
Richard Black
BBC environment correspondent

"This is a bill for energy independence after a devastating oil spill, a bill to hold polluters accountable, a bill for billions of dollars to create the next generation of jobs and a bill to end America's addiction to foreign oil," he said.

The bill proposes setting a price on carbon emissions for large polluters such as coal-fired power plants.

But Mr Kerry and Senator Joe Lieberman, who is also sponsoring the bill, say the farms and most small and medium-sized businesses will be exempt from the charges.

It will offer incentives of up to $2bn (£1.35bn) a year for firms to develop so-called clean coal technologies, including methods to capture and store carbon emissions.

The senators inserted sweeteners for the bill's potential opponents - including provisions aimed at boosting nuclear power.

But the bill is subject to a constrained political timetable.

Immigration laws have been moved to the top of the agenda and, with elections later in the year, it is uncertain whether the climate bill will even be discussed this year.

After the elections, the Democrats may well lose their stranglehold on Congress, making it much harder to get the bill passed into law.

Mr Kerry said it was the "last best chance" at framing climate change legislation.

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Philadelphia Inquirer Senators unveil three-pronged climate bill - 5 hrs ago
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