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US President Barack Obama is under intense pressure from leading members of his Democratic Party to scale back climate change legislation as their support for his proposed cap-and-trade scheme for carbon emissions ebbs away.

Mr Obama indicated yesterday he may be willing to accept a compromise in which a cap-and-trade scheme similar to one proposed by the Rudd government was isolated from an all-encompassing climate change bill.

The revised approach could give parts of the President’s legislative plan related to clean energy jobs a better chance of congress approval. Mr Obama said yesterday he remained firmly behind legislation to combat climate change.

But he told a town hall meeting in New Hampshire: “We may be able to separate these things out — and it’s possible that that’s where the Senate ends up.”

By separating a mooted emissions trading scheme from other parts of legislation, the President could be in a better position to win support for renewable energy proposals that he has linked to creating thousands of “green” jobs.

His willingness to break up climate change legislation reflects the difficulty he faces in winning support for a cap-and-trade scheme that would put a price on carbon emissions.

Republican Party senators are fiercely opposed to the proposal, arguing it would impose unreasonable new costs on business.

Many Democrats aligned with Mr Obama are also alarmed at the plan, fearing it will scare voters in carbon-intensive industries when mid-term congressional elections are held in November.

The President yesterday gave Democrats a pep talk in an attempt to unify them behind legislation on climate change and health that have so far stalled in the Senate, where the Republicans now have the numbers to block bills with 41 out of 100 votes using a filibuster procedure.

He also announced a “carbon capture” initiative, proposing the creation of five to 10 commercial demonstration projects in operation by 2016.

Like Kevin Rudd, Mr Obama has proposed a target for reducing greenhouse gases and a price on carbon, although figures for both countries differ. Mr Obama proposes 17 per cent while Mr Rudd’s starts at the more modest figure of 5 per cent. Estimates for a proposed carbon price also vary. The commonly mentioned price in the US is between $US15 and $US20 a tonne, while Treasury has estimated $26 a tonne in Australia.

Like Mr Rudd, Mr Obama is in a predicament because he cannot get the US Senate to agree to what he wants on climate change legislation. Only Mr Obama’s predicament is worse. At least the Labor Party supports its Prime Minister. Mr Obama’s own Democrats in the Senate now have serious doubts as they fear that legislation will cost the support of voters.

The Australian, 5 February 2010