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By a narrow vote of 219 to 212 the 1200-page Waxman-Markey climate change legislation passed through the House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote. Only eight Republicans voted for the bill while 44 conservative, mostly rural Democrats voted against it.

The bill reaches into nearly every aspect of the US economy by imposing steep costs on those continuing to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. While most appreciate the need to reduce greenhouse gases, it is the imminence of the threat and more particularly the economic dangers of global warming that is provoking the controversy. Passage of the bill would immediately impose considerable costs to the American economy during hard economic times while the costs imposed by global warming are amorphous and likely to come after the political careers of those voting on the bill.

The closeness of the vote marks the split between influential forces on the American political scene if not on the population as a whole. Business groups are split depending on whether their members see increased costs or opportunities in transitioning the US to alternative forms of energy.

The balance of political forces evident in the House vote suggests that the measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate where Republicans and moderate Democrats have reservations about many of the current bill’s provisions. These concerns could lead to delays or substantial modifications.

There are major implications in the passage of this bill for the future of US and likely worldwide consumption of fossil fuels. With goals of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent in the next ten years and 83 percent in the next 40, the impact on most aspects of US energy consumption would be swift and hard – hence the controversy.

The rhetoric surrounding the bill has already reached apocalyptic levels with some claiming it would destroy the American way of life while destroying jobs and businesses. The bill is already deeply enmeshed in the 2010 elections as the costs are