Senators Issue Warning on Climate Bill
A group of 10 moderate Democrats sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday saying that they will not support any domestic climate change bill that did not protect American industries from competition from countries that did not impose similar restraints on climate-altering gases.
“As Congress considers energy and climate legislation, it is important that such a bill include provisions to maintain a level playing field for American manufacturing,” wrote the senators — a sort of “Brown Dog” coalition representing states whose economies are dependent on coal and manufacturing. “It is essential that any clean energy legislation not only address the crisis of climate change, but include strong provisions to ensure the strength and viability of domestic manufacturing.”
The signers of the bill were Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan; Robert P. Casey and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania; Robert C. Byrd and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia; Evan Bayh of Indiana; Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin and Al Franken of Minnesota.
The letter warns that strong actions to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will add to the cost of goods like steel, cement, paper and aluminum. Unless other countries adopt similar emissions limits, the senators warn, jobs will migrate overseas and foreign manufacturers will have a decided cost advantage.
The senators called for transition assistance for energy-intensive manufacturers in the form of rebates on their energy costs; negotiation of a strong international agreement on emissions; programs to monitor emissions in other countries and significant funding for clean energy technology.
The authors also said steeper tariffs on goods from countries that do not agree to an international regime of carbon dioxide reductions were “critical to ensuring that climate change legislation will be trade neutral and environmentally effective.”
The House bill gives the president the power to impose such penalties on goods from countries that do not adhere to an international climate change regime.
“Climate change is a reality and the world cannot afford inaction,” they wrote. “However, we must not engage in a self-defeating effort that displaces greenhouse gas emissions rather than reducing them and displaces U.S. jobs rather than bolstering them.”
Mr. Obama, in an interview shortly after the House vote, said he was concerned about the tariff provision of the House bill, calling it potentially “protectionist.”
The 10 senators are seen as critical undecided votes in the upcoming Senate debate on climate change legislation. The House narrowly passed a climate bill in late June, but the Senate is moving slowly, in part because the body is preoccupied with health care legislation.
The senators represent Midwestern and coal-producing states that provided many of the 44 Democratic “no” votes on the House measure. Without their support, it is unlikely that the Senate can pass a major climate change bill.