WASHINGTON — Congress has taken its first step toward an energy revolution, with the prospect of profound change for every household, business, industry and farm in the decades ahead.
It was late Friday when the House passed legislation that would, for the first time, require limits on pollution blamed for global warming — mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Now the Senate has the chance to change the way Americans produce and use energy.
What would the country look like a decade from now if the House-passed bill — or, more likely, a water-down version — were to become the law of the land? What does it mean to the average person?
Energy touches every corner of the economy and in countless ways can alter people's lives.
Such a law would impact how much people pay to heat, cool and light their homes (it would cost more); what automobiles they buy and drive (smaller, fuel efficient and hybrid electric); and where they will work (more "green" jobs, meaning more environmentally friendly ones).
Critics of the House bill brand it a "jobs killer." Yet it would seem more likely to shift jobs. Old, energy-intensive industries and businesses might scale back or disappear. Those green jobs would emerge, propelled by the push for nonpolluting energy sources.
That could mean making or installing solar panels, repairing wind turbines, producing energy-efficient light bulbs, working for an environmental engineering firm or waste recycler and making equipment that harnesses carbon from coal burning.
Assembly line workers at factories that made gas-guzzling cars might see their future in producing the next generation of batteries or wind turbine blades — an emerging shift, though on a relatively small scale today.
Farmers would see the cost of fertilizer and electricity go up. More windmills would dot their pastures.
Energy would cost more because it would become more expensive to produce. For the first time there would be a price on the greenhouse gas pollution created when coal, natural gas or oil are burned. Energy companies would have to pay for technologies that can capture the carbon emissions, purchase pollution allowances or shift to cleaner energy sources.
It all costs.
But not all the higher energy cost would show up in people's utility bills. Households, as well as business and factories could use less energy, or at least use it more efficiently.
H. Josef Hebert has covered energy and environmental issues for the Associated Press since 1990.