America’s social and religious conservatives are turning up the heat as they galvanize heartland opposition against the latest example of President Barack Obama-inspired “socialism” — a climate change bill that aims to reduce fossil fuel emissions, which most scientists have linked to climate change.  

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The Democratic Party-led House of Representatives passed the bill on Friday. It would require large companies, including utilities and manufacturers, to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels. It must still go through the U.S. Senate, where its ultimate fate remains uncertain despite the Democratic majority there.

Conservative Christians, a key base – if not THE base — for the out-of-power Republican Party, are among the biggest skeptics of human-induced global warming. In the eyes of many environmentalists, they were part of an “unholy alliance” with the energy industry that enjoyed its zenith under former president George W. Bush, who pulled America out of the Kyoto Protocol aimed at cutting emissions in the developed world. The Bush administration was widely seen as hostile to any attempt to cap emissions as well as the science behind it.

Conservative Christians are sounding the alarm bells about the climate bill, which represents Obama’s first major legislative victory and which Republicans see as a major opportunity to gain political ground ahead of the 2010 congressional elections. You can see our coverage of this issue here.

Republicans are calling it a “job killer” while the Cornwall Alliance – a conservative Christian coalition – has described its cap and trade provisions, which allow companies that pollute less than their limit to sell some of their permits to others struggling to meet such green requirements, ”as the largest tax hike in history.” Analysts have said such arguments may appeal to voters especially against the backdrop of the current recession.