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Senators Warm Up to Emissions Curbs Key Republicans Ease Opposition As 
Suspected Climate Change Causes Damage in Alaska

February 22, 2005

WASHINGTON - Republican opposition to "greenhouse gas" curbs is slowly 
easing, as concerns mount over damage from climate change.
In Alaska, where severe storms, flooding and permafrost melting have caused 
widespread damage, the two Republican senators say they are willing to 
reconsider carbon-dioxide regulation after voting against it two years ago.

Sen. Ted Stevens, in an interview this week, said he is now willing to 
discuss ways to reduce man-made emissions if they can be shown to be 
contributing to the damage. He didn't rule out the possibility of switching 
his position to favor the bill -- reintroduced last week by Sens. John 
McCain, the Arizona Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, the Connecticut 
Democrat -- that would require industry to reduce emissions to 2000 levels 
by the year 2010.

"This is an issue of conscience more than anything else," Mr. Stevens said, 
referring to the damage in Alaska. "It's the most difficult challenge I feel 
as a senator from my state."

Alaska's junior senator, Lisa Murkowski, expressed similar sentiments in a 
separate interview. "I need to be sensitive that there are changes going on 
right now," she said. "If that change is due in part to what man is 
contributing to the atmosphere, I think it would be prudent to look at."

Even if the two senators switch sides, the bill's prospects remain 
uncertain. Many politicians aren't sure to what extent man-made carbon 
dioxide is contributing to climate change, and some scientists dispute the 
link between industrial activity and global warming. Experts, executives and 
policy makers also argue that the economic costs of regulating 
carbon-dioxide emissions could well exceed the environmental benefits.

And the Senate has turned more Republican and more antiregulation since the 
chamber rejected the McCain-Lieberman bill by a vote of 55-43 in 2003. So 
far, President Bush is opposed to regulation, and the House appears poised 
to follow the administration's lead.

Yet a change in the Alaska delegation would mark a turning point in the 
long-running debate, in which the U.S. remains at odds with most other 
industrialized nations. The U.S. has so far refused to join 140 nations in 
ratifying the emission-limiting Kyoto Protocol, which took effect Wednesday.

Beyond the Alaska delegation, other Republican senators are lining up to 
support measures that would cut carbon-dioxide emissions -- though many 
favor incentives rather than mandates.

One influential Republican working to reposition himself is Nebraska Sen. 
Chuck Hagel. In 1997 he helped lay the political groundwork for U.S. 
rejection of the Kyoto Protocol when he co-wrote a Senate resolution that 
said the U.S. should join only if China and other large developing nations 
took part. The Senate approved the resolution 95-0.

This week, Mr. Hagel -- widely seen as a 2008 presidential candidate --  
introduced three bills that would provide tax benefits and government-backed 
loans to U.S. companies that export or invest in equipment to reduce 
carbon-dioxide emissions.

One of Mr. Hagel's co-sponsors is Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee 
Republican. "I'm willing to invest a lot of money if it makes sense to do 
it," he said. Mr. Alexander said he isn't ready to support Mr. McCain's 
bill, but he thinks the U.S. must move "more aggressively" to promote new 
technology -- including coal gasification, which removes carbon dioxide, and 
nuclear-power plants, which don't emit greenhouse gases. "The No. 1 issue in 
my area is clean air," Mr. Alexander said, referring to power-plant 
pollution, which increasingly clouds the views in Tennessee's Great Smoky 
Mountains National Park.


Peter Anderson, President
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Madison, WI 53705-4964
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Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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