Doubts about climate change and anger over using market forces to cut greenhouse gas emissions may have killed proposed cap-and-trade legislation, Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Thursday, but he still plans to work with Democrats and a few Republicans on a smaller energy bill.

During a phone conference with reporters Thursday, Lieberman said he was surprised to see “candidates were actually running as deniers of the reality of climate change” in the recent campaigns.

“Frankly, I thought we had finished that debate,” he said. “We had, here in the Senate. There was that debate maybe 10 years ago, about whether climate change was real, and we had come to the point where just about everybody said the globe is warming and it is the result of human behavior-carbon emissions-and a reasonable question was: what do we do about it?”

Lieberman, who won re-election in 2006 as an independent but who is still caucuses with Democrats, said he now plans to work with a core group of Democrats and would approach two Republicans, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, to seek their support for some kind of energy bill this session.

A smaller energy bill, Lieberman said, could include incentives to buy electric cars; adoption of a national clean energy standard for power companies; incentives for the use of natural gas in vehicles, beginning with large trucks; incentives for nuclear power; and a bill on energy conservation, particularly new building standards.

“Cap and trade, which was a market mechanism, is just not going to fly,” he said. “So we are going to take that off the table. Whatever we do, we will accomplish less. Less is better than nothing. Nothing happened in two years and the problem gets worse.”

The problem, he went on, is that “America is getting too much energy from foreign countries that don’t like us, and global warming grows worse every day. We’ve got to try to do something about it. Some is happening voluntarily, but ultimately, it needs some government help to do something.”

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