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Capitol Hill politics aren't just bogging down a climate bill in the Senate, but also investment in low-carbon energy.
Portfolio managers, investment firms and businesses are counting on a carbon-constrained future, under legislation that curbs greenhouse gases, to grow the demand for green and clean-tech projects. But after the Senate Majority Leader said last week he's planning to bring a controversial immigration bill to the floor before climate bill. One of its key authors--and a rare Republican backer of climate legislation--nixed plans to unveil a proposal Monday.
"Unless their plan substantially changes this weekend, I will be unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time," said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham in a letter.
Nearly every sector of the energy industry is in some way affected by the climate bill's fate, whether its wind turbines and solar plants, nuclear power or companies that make natural gas generators and clean coal technology. While some want to see a carbon market that will create demand for their products, others just want to know the investment parameters and clarity on the new emission rules.
"The U.S. faces a critical moment that will determine whether we will be able to unleash billions in energy investments or remain mired in the economic status quo," the U.S. Climate Action Partnership said after the meltdown in negotiations over the weekend. USCAP represents nearly two dozen Fortune-500 companies that have urged Congress to pass a climate bill, including General Electric Co. (GE), Duke Energy (DUK), and NRG Energy (NRG).
The American Business for Clean Energy (ABCE), a group representing 3,000 businesses that support passage of a climate bill, urged lawmakers to keep pushing it as a legislative priority. "American businesses, large and small, are urging Congress to act in order to make the United States a world leader in clean energy technology, reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources, and create millions of new jobs," the group said.
Graham and his partners, Sens. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and Joe Liebermann (I., Conn.) have been crafting the proposal with industry for months. But he said he fears adding controversial immigration legislation to an already jammed legislative calendar would crowd out a climate bill. "I will not allow our hard work to be rolled out in a manner that has no chance of success," he said.
That leaves utilities that have worked with the Senate trio to craft climate legislation, such as Exelon Corp. (EXC) and American Electric Power Co. (AEP), and FPL Group (FPL), flummoxed.
"We are disappointed by this temporary setback, we remain hopeful that the issues will be resolved quickly, and that the U.S. Senate will make passage of an energy and climate bill an urgent priority," said Exelon spokeswoman Judy Rader.
A senior lobbyist that works for a large utility said the political intervention is frustrating because, "We thought progress had been made and we were moving in the right direction."
With businesses fearing their work on the bill will have been in vain, he said there's "an effort to try to get many people to weigh in with Graham, and say, 'please go back to the table.'"
The setback--which some say may be fatal for the bill this year--happens as the White House has been ramping up the rhetoric about how vital passing the climate bill is to invigorate the U.S. economy and compete with China. President Barack Obama's top economic advisor, energy czar and energy secretary have been hitting the public speaking circuit to whip up support for the climate bill.
Obama himself will Tuesday travel to a Siemens Corp. wind turbine facility in Fort Madison, Iowa, Tuesday as part of an orchestrated effort to tout the economic, environmental and national security benefits of clean energy investments. The company expanded the plant, adding over 600 jobs with capital from the stimulus package and tax credits.
Siemens., a unit of the German parent company Siemens AG (SI, SIE.XE), is representative of thousands of companies looking to capitalize on a carbon-constrained economy. It's building a range of products that would be attractive if there was a cost to emitting carbon. Besides efficient motors and generators, they're also developing technology to capture emissions from coal plants, have a retro-fitting business that installs energy efficient equipment in buildings, and plan to expand their solar power unit in the U.S.
-By Ian Talley, Dow Jones Newswires; (202) 862 9285; firstname.lastname@example.org;