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Climate bill slowed by Gulf oil leak

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) speaks to the media after a meeting with the CEO of BP Group Anthony Hayward on Capitol Hill -- May 4, 2010

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: Construction workers today are moving forward on their next plan to stop the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. Crews are building a 100-ton containment dome. They hope it can be dropped on the seabed later this week -- hopefully, that would stop the leak. In addition to the damage to the environment and wildlife, the spill is also having a big impact in Washington. Marketplace's Brett Neely joins us live from our Washington studio this morning. Hi Brett.

Brett Neely: Hi Steve.

Chiotakis: So how is this spill in the Gulf of Mexico reaching all the way to Capitol Hill?

Neely: Well one casualty of this spill may be the climate bill moving through the Senate. Senators have been negotiating a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for months. And to get Republican support, one of the bargaining chips was incentives for offshore oil and gas exploration. I mean that was one reason why President Obama had made that big announcement about expanding offshore drilling last month. The spill has totally altered those delicate negotiations and may sink the bill.

Chiotakis: All right, so let me see if I understand this: an oil spill may wreck the chance of a bill that was trying cut oil use?

Neely: Yeah exactly. Because after this spill, some Senate Democrats now say there's no way they can support a bill that expands drilling. I mean Bill Nelson of Florida has even threatened a filibuster if the bill includes offshore drilling. But if drilling isn't in the bill, it's really hard to see how it will draw much Republican support. Republican Senator John Kyl described the bill as a three-legged stool: one leg was more oil and gas drilling, another was more nuclear power and the third was cutting CO2 emissions. And he said this spill at least knocks temporarily one of those legs off the stool.

Chiotakis: So what if the stool falls, and there's no climate bill this year?

Neely: Well the big issue here, aside from slowing global warming obviously, is that many companies just want to know how they'll be affected by a climate bill. Many industries, and think especially here of the electric power producers, have been asking for clarity from the government for years. I mean it does take years, and sometimes decades, to invest in and build new factories and power plants. And without a climate bill, it's going to be really hard for them to plan ahead.

Chiotakis: Brett Neely, with us live from our Washington studio. Brett, thanks.

Neely: Thank you.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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