Bennet predicts tough climate fight

Colorado senator makes stop in Aspen, says bill needs work

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— The energy-climate bill passed last week in the House will face an even tougher battle in the Senate, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet predicted Wednesday during a stop at the Aspen campus of Colorado Mountain College.

The Colorado Democrat, in town to attend the Aspen Ideas Festival, met with CMC administrators and other local representatives for a briefing on the college's new Green Building Academy initiative, aimed at certifying building professionals in energy efficiency and green building. The goal is to help residents meet the changing needs in the workplace in the midst of state and national efforts to stimulate the economy through the creation of "green jobs."

"I have traveled all over this state ... in about every corner of Colorado people are captivated by the idea of building a green economy here," Bennet said. "I think Colorado is perfectly positioned to lead the country from its dependence on foreign oil because of our natural gas, our wind, sun and the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates the state."

The climate bill that narrowly passed in the House last week, however, "needs a lot of work," Bennet said. The legislation calls for the nation's first limits on pollution linked to global warming and aims to usher in a new era of cleaner but more costly energy while reducing the country's reliance on foreign oil, but Bennet said the bill is too weighted toward investment in clean coal and he called for better balance between coal and natural gas.

The legislation, he said, also lacks sufficient incentives for renewable energy. Several attendees at Wednesday's gathering also called for incentives to make the green push viable.

Detractors of the climate bill passed in the House, including many Republicans and energy-industry groups, claim the bill will significantly increase the cost of energy for an American public already burdened by the recession.

"I do think it will increase energy bills, but not as much as what they're saying," Bennet said. "We've got to be able to demonstrate that - to show people the math."

If the resulting costs to the consumer are onerous, the legislation won't pass in the Senate, he predicted.

In the House, Colorado's contingent in Congress voted along party lines on the climate bill, except for Democratic Rep. John Salazar, who voted against it. Salazar said in a statement that the bill would put a "disproportionate burden" on Western Slope residents, where gas and oil drilling is a major employer.

"I haven't talked to the congressman about his vote on it ... but I'm very interested to hear what his concerns were," Bennet said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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