According to E&E (sub. rqd), Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Coal) says President Bush would sign a climate bill with mandatory carbon controls as long as it was, well, toothless:

A House Democrat writing legislation to require greenhouse gas limits said today that White House officials have privately indicated that President Bush might sign such a bill, despite the administration’s public stance against mandatory controls.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) told a business forum that White House officials have not put up a “red light.”

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

But he outlined several big “ifs.”

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“If a bill is presented to the White House that has a bipartisan foundation, if it is industry supported, if it is structured in such a way that it will not cause economic dislocation and that is digestible by the economy, that legislation will be welcomed, it would receive serious consideration and potentially be signed into law,” Boucher said at a climate change forum hosted by the Business Roundtable.

He later told reporters he has been speaking about climate legislation with Bush’s principal climate advisers, including Jim Connaughton, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality.

If you think this is the White House awakening to ecological reality, I’ve got some waterfront property I want to sell you. What’s happening behind the scenes is that coal-state legislators and big corporations are pressuring Bush to signal openness on this — they’re keen to get something weak now rather than something much stronger next session, when all signs point to larger Dem majorities and a Dem president.

Just exactly how weak are we talking? Boucher explains:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Boucher said the upcoming climate bill will provide a “somewhat forgiving, a gentle introduction to controls” until carbon capture and storage is ready, which he said would be around 2025. Before that, he said, coal-fired utilities will need other options available to meet obligations, such as purchase of offsets.

“The schedule prior to 2025 has got to be more forgiving,” he told reporters. “The schedule after 2025 can be very rigorous.”

Boucher said Senate proposals would impose major limits too fast. “I don’t think the Senate bills adequately address that need because the control schedule is quite severe in the early years, before we have carbon capture and storage available,” he said. “If they default to natural gas, real harm to the economy occurs.”

In other words, we need to schedule our CO2 reductions for when they’re convenient for Big Coal, because what’s good for Big Coal is good for America. Right?