updated 12/2/2004 9:57:02 AM ET 2004-12-02T14:57:02

Cinergy Corp., a major owner of coal-fired power plants, has voiced support for laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions, saying the move is economically feasible and would end uncertainty over the issue.

The Cincinnati-based utility is a key player in the debate over whether the nation should require industrial facilities to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that many scientists believe are causing the Earth to warm.

Coal-burning plants like Cinergy’s release more carbon dioxide than any other industrial facilities.

In a report Wednesday to shareholders on its strategy for dealing with global warming regulations, the company said a national program that capped greenhouse gas emissions but allowed all kinds of industrial facilities to trade emissions reduction credits would be feasible and possibly beneficial for the company.

McCain-Lieberman bill favored
Cinergy said that, of the existing legislative proposals now before Congress, a bill introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., comes closest to matching the company’s position.

Interactive: The greenhouse effect “The bill offers a promising sign in that it includes most industrial sectors, and allows for trading within and between sectors,” Cinergy said. This makes it preferable to a bill introduced by Senator Tom Carper, D-Del., because, among other problems, that bill doesn’t allocate more allowances to facilities that inherently emit more carbon dioxides because of the fuels they use.

Cinergy noted, however, that the McCain-Lieberman bill doesn’t include a provision, favored by Cinergy, that would cap the price of carbon dioxide allowances at the program’s start and slowly increase that cap through time.

Cinergy said complying with a carbon dioxide cap wouldn’t incur large new expenditures beyond the cost of complying with upcoming emissions caps on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which form smog in the atmosphere, and mercury.

In addition, the company will likely be able to pass through all of these costs to its electricity customers in states where utilities are regulated — which is most of the states in which Cinergy operates.

Bush has opposed curbs
Cinergy’s position on global warming appears to be at odds with the Bush administration, which has opposed the McCain-Lieberman bill and other proposals that would force U.S. industry to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Observers had speculated that President Bush, in his second term, might change his position and support a cap, but last month senior officials reaffirmed the administration’s opposition to mandatory reduction programs such as the McCain-Lieberman bill.

The president, while endorsing the view that warming is happening, has refrained from curbs and withdrew the United States from the Kyoto climate change treaty. He favors voluntary steps over mandates, which he feels will undermine the economy.

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