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A top White House adviser confirmed today that President Obama is open to helping energy-intensive industries cope with the costs of climate legislation, including use of controversial border tariffs he had previously warned could spark a global trade war.

Energy and climate adviser Carol Browner said the administration recognizes Congress’ interest in using trade language as it works on climate legislation that addresses concerns from some of the country’s industries that are most vulnerable to cheap foreign imports, including steel, cement, glass, pulp and paper.

“There’s going to have to be mechanisms that recognize they compete in a global market,” Browner said during an event hosted by National Journal. “I think it’s fair to say a final bill will be very mindful of the needs of these particular sectors of the economy.”

Obama prompted an outcry from moderate Senate Democrats last summer after he questioned a section of the House-passed climate bill H.R. 2454 (pdf) that punishes developing countries with trade sanctions if they don’t do enough to curb their greenhouse gas emissions (E&ENews PM, July 7, 2009).

“At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we’ve seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there,” the president told reporters the day after the House’s 218-212 vote.

The Senate climate bill’s lead authors have sent signals that they will address the concerns of senators from states with trade-sensitive industries, though details on what John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will say in their legislation remains unclear. The trio are planning to release their bill Monday.

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