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Obama considers 'regional differences'

President Barack Obama announced at a press conference last week that his plan for limiting carbon emissions will account for "regional differences."

The plan will have different pollution allowances for different regions of the country based on the amount of energy produced from coal and the amount of access a region has to alternative forms of energy.

"The way it's structured has to take into account regional differences," Obama said. "It has to protect consumers from huge spikes in electricity prices."

Alabama consumers get 56 percent of their energy from coal, according to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy. And, according to an energy profile done by the Encyclopedia of Earth, Alabama's per capita residential electricity consumption is among the highest in the United States.

The encylopedia attributes this high consumption rate to the amount of air conditioning and heat needed because of Alabama's climate.

Obama's acknowledgement of regional differences is the first of its kind from him and one that several Alabama representatives think is necessary to gain support for his overall global warming plan.

Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham said the president's acknowledgment of this is a step forward that will influence him and other Democrats.

Some Alabama representatives remain skeptical of Obama's plan.

"That's a step in the right direction," said Rep. Spencer Bachus of Vestavia Hills. "But, we'll have to see which regions and which differences. The devil is in the details."

Obama's "cap and trade" plan would place national limits on carbon emissions. Companies would then have to purchase emission allowances. This could create an incentive for companies to reduce their emissions or allow them to buy credits from others who do and don't use their alloted share.

The idea is for a market approach to eventually close the emissions gap.

Obama said he thinks this cap and trade method is a good idea because it will start pricing the pollution that is sent into the atmosphere.

Sen. Jeff Sessions opposes the cap and trade policy because he views it as government interference in the economy.

"I've observed that this administration tends to make the absolute minimum change necessary to move the bill, and I have not seen a real effort to make genuine compromises that could bring large numbers of senators on board," Sessions said.

Auburn student activist and co-chair of the Auburn Sustainability Action Program, Brittany Branyon, feels that cap and trade policy is a step in the right direction but is not enough by itself.

"The consequences that polluting companies face are fair in this era of environmental and economic degradation," Branyon said. "Society must learn that we have this one planet to take care of, and everyone is responsible for its success or downfall. It is fantastic that we are rewarding efficient companies with credits; it's positive reinforcement."

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