Senate Democrats’ efforts to pass climate change legislation this year came to a screeching halt Friday when the chamber failed to obtain the required 60 votes needed to move forward with the bill.

By 48-36 the Senate rejected cloture on the climate bill (S. 3036), effectively ending any chance for the measure this year. The vote broke largely along party lines, with only a handful of Republicans joining Democrats to support cloture.

The bill is finished in the Senate for this year, said Martin Edwards, vice president of legislative affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). “There’s a long way to go in terms of developing political support to move the bill forward.” It’ll be 2010 or later before Congress passes legislation that will reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, he said.

Energy analysts Christine Tezak and K. Whitney Stanco of Stanford Group Co. agreed. “It is unlikely that the Senate will take up climate legislation again this year. We believe that mid-2010 is the earliest we could see a final bill emerge from Congress,” they said.

“In an era of $4 gas, it’s not easy to move a bill forward that would further increase prices,” Edwards said. “The economic impacts of the bill are difficult to understand, but everybody realizes they are huge.”

The climate bill, sponsored by Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), now goes back on the Senate calendar and could be called up later this session, but that isn’t likely to happen, said Bill Wicker, spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“The reality is that this is the end of climate change in this Congress,” which will go out in early October and possibly return in either November of December for a lame-duck session, he said.

The House, however, is expected to hold some hearings later this month on the Lieberman-Warner bill and the $8 trillion measure sponsored by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), said Tezak and Whitney in a policy research paper. The objective of the hearings is to “build some kind of consensus” around the climate issue, according to INGAA’s Edwards.

The Senate measure proposed cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHG emissions from affected industries — such as power plants, refineries and transportation sources — to 19% below current levels by 2020, and to approximately 70% below current levels by 2050.

The legislation would limit the amount of CO2 that affected industries could emit. It would set up a program for trading allowances. Companies would buy allowances if they were unable to meet the emissions cap or sell allowances if they were successful in meeting the cap.

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