NEW YORK (Fortune) -- An influential coalition of Fortune 500 companies and environmental groups that was formed to support climate-change legislation has splintered over the Lieberman-Warner bill that is headed next week to the Senate floor.
The U.S. Climate Action Partnership formed last year won't take a position on the bill, although nine of its members - including General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500) and four utility companies - signed a letter to senators backing the legislation.
The letter, also signed by big environmental groups and obtained by Fortune, says: "Prompt action on climate change is essential to protect America's economy, security, quality of life and natural environment."
But other members of the coalition known as U.S. Cap, most visibly Duke Energy (DUK, Fortune 500), a coal-burning utility, are strongly opposed. "It's going to translate into significant electricity price increases," says Jim Rogers, Duke's CEO.
Without widespread corporate support, passage of the bill - already a long shot at best - becomes even more unlikely this year. President Bush remains opposed. House Democrats have been slow to act.
Besides that, a backdrop of rising gasoline prices and the sluggish economy makes it difficult to win votes for a regulatory scheme that will raise the prices of electricity and gasoline. In fact, a key purpose of the bill is to put a price on the emissions of greenhouse gases, as a way to speed the transition to a clean-energy economy and slow down global warming.
Hopefully this will kill this bill. There's nothing like a good global warming scare to keep the sheep in line.