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U.S. climate bill blocked, while IEA calls for action

Debate on Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act is scuttled. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency calls for $45 trillion energy revolution.

Attempts to bring a global warming bill up for debate were blocked in the Senate on Friday, derailing what would have been the first federal U.S. climate change legislation.

According to published reports, Democrats fell short of the 60 votes necessary to end a Republican-led filibuster.

Debate on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 has focused on the cost of throttling carbon dioxide emissions.

"It's a huge tax increase," said Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, from the coal state of Kentucky, according to an Associated Press story. Trading carbon emissions allowances, McConnell said, would produce "the largest restructuring of the American economy since the New Deal."

The same article quoted Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California accusing the Republicans of spreading misinformation. "There is no tax increase," she said, arguing that consumers would be provided tax relief to help pay energy prices.

President Bush has also warned of carbon regulation costs, and the bill was not expected to be passed into law.

Impact on green tech?
In general, people at clean-tech and energy companies are not counting on a swift introduction of climate change regulations. But most people expect them to take hold within the next five years.

Both presumed presidential candidates--Barack Obama and John McCain--favor climate change legislation.

Climate change regulations are designed to put a price on polluting. For instance, in a cap and trade system that will start for Northeast utilities this fall, large polluters are given carbon emissions allowances that can be bought and sold.

Whether these regulations will benefit green-tech companies and clean energy projects hinges on how the rules are set up.

Until any laws on the books, many technologies are being developed in anticipation of policies to support low-carbon energy technologies and as an alternative to rising fossil fuel prices.

IEA calls for policy-led "energy revolution"
Also on Friday, the International Energy Agency called for a $45 trillion fund to halve carbon emissions by 2050.

In a study, the IEA said that 1,400 nuclear power plants would need to be built and off-shore wind farms expanded rapidly to make this goal.

A "global energy revolution" is necessary to mitigate climate change and to meet rising energy demand around the world, the IEA said. With existing policies, the group said, carbon dioxide emissions will rise 130 percent and oil demand will rise 70 percent by 2050.

"Such growth of oil demand raises major concerns regarding energy supply access and investment needs," Nobuo Tanaka, the IEA's executive director, said in a statement.