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Pelosi calls for mandatory carbon cap

The House speaker, fresh off a visit to Greenland and Europe, says she hopes Congress will enact new restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions by year's end.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday called for Congress to enact mandatory restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions by year's end.

At a news conference in Washington D.C. alongside Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Pelosi said that as part of a "Fourth of July energy independence package" of legislation, she said it is "absolutely essential" for the House to pass a European-style "cap-and-trade" proposal related to carbon dioxide. The compound, a greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels like coal and petroleum are burned, is considered a major contributor to global warming.

In a cap-and-trade system, which Europe began adopting in January 2005 as part of the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, potential polluters must purchase credits on carbon-trading markets if their operations emit more than an allocated limit. The United States has already employed such an approach to combat sulfur dioxide emissions, which contribute to the phenomenon known as "acid rain."

Pelosi said she hopes a new bill will be introduced in June, although it was unclear what it would look like. Markey said politicians are still mulling the target percentage and timeframe by which the emissions must be reduced. (Europe, for instance, is aiming for a 20 percent carbon reduction by the year 2020.)

The politicians were fresh off a trip with a congressional delegation to England, Germany and Belgium to meet with foreign leaders about climate change issues and to learn from Greenland natives about the toll global warming has taken on their livelihood.

They also criticized President Bush for failing to endorse a mandatory cap in his announcement one day earlier about U.S. climate change policy. The G8 is scheduled to discuss mandatory caps as part of its summit in Germany next week.

In a speech Thursday, the president pledged that the United States would play a major role in global environmental policy and come up with a plan to reduce emissions by the end of 2008. He said the nation needs to focus on continued investments in alternative energy technologies, such as hydrogen-powered and electric vehicles.

"Yes, he says now he believes that global warming is happening and he accepts the science that it is," Pelosi said. "But if that were so, if he truly understood that, he could not have come up with a proposal that is aspirational."

Markey went a step further, calling the plan not just aspirational but "procrastinational."