Thursday, May 7, 2009

Carbon Cap and Invest in Ohio


By Wendy Patton

Ohio understands economic change. This is a state where producers of screw caps evolve into safety system architects, where coal miners retrain for nursing careers and where biomed blooms next to blast furnaces. Our economic history has forced us to seek opportunity. This is our competitive advantage.

Congress is now considering a clean energy proposal that would dramatically change domestic energy policy. Under the plan, revenues would be raised to clean up American manufacturing processes; insulate homes, commercial buildings and factories; produce more wind and solar energy in places like Cleveland and Toledo; and produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. This is the kind of opportunity Ohio needs to capitalize on our competitive advantage.

The clean energy proposal includes a system of carbon cap and trade to reduce carbon dioxide and other pollutants that cause global warming. Carbon cap and trade systems are already in place in parts of the U.S. and in Europe. The system places a value on the right to pollute. The cap limits the amount of pollutants that can be emitted, and the trade allows the market to set the price for rights (allowances) for emissions. The revenues can fund the transition to the new energy economy.

We should shape the cap and trade model into a system of cap and invest. Revenue raised from the system should be invested in revitalization of the American economy and mitigation of the transition costs. Household budgets of low- and moderate-income families must be protected as we transform from a high polluting, high-carbon economy to a low carbon, clean green economy. Existing manufacturing jobs in energy intensive industries must be protected from transitional spikes in energy costs. Clean coal and coal sequestration technologies must be developed, since much of the Midwestern electric generation relies on coal plants.

Ohio’s leaders are on the job. Senator Brown recently introduced a proposal to provide financial resources and expertise to assist firms in lowering energy costs. Representative Zach Space has started a green jobs corps in his district. Representative Betty Sutton champions the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program to encourage buying high-mileage vehicles. Representative Marcy Kaptur has seeded green markets for Ohio companies and funded research in photovoltaics. These are great starts. We look forward to more.

Our elected officials must negotiate for provisions in the climate change proposal to create jobs in Ohio and facilitate recovery. Such polices should include:

• Direct federal funding for manufacturers to retool their facilities and retrain their workers to develop, produce and commercialize clean energy technologies.
• Domestic content and labor standards must ensure that firms receiving federal support create jobs that pay a family-supporting wage here at home.
• Increased funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to expand its role in strengthening the clean energy supply chain.
• Increased funding for the Green Jobs Act to retrain workers for new green jobs.
• A presidential task force on clean energy manufacturing to make production of clean energy systems and components a national priority.

In our 2005 report on job potential of renewable energy ("Generating Energy, Generating Jobs"), Policy Matters Ohio presented data demonstrating that Ohio would garner more green jobs than 47 other states given a sizable domestic investment in renewable energy and a set of policies that support domestic manufacturing. We can be a winner because of our assets: dense networks of upstream and downstream suppliers in close proximity to research and development facilities, supporting logistics, financiers with a history in new market development, a well trained work force and strong post-secondary training facilities. The disastrous job loss of the past year makes it hard to recognize the strengths we have. But Ohio hosts a comprehensive industrial base upon which we can build.

There is no denying that last year was a tough. But it is precisely because we need new jobs and reinvestment that our lawmakers must seize the opportunity presented in the climate change discussions. Their actions will be far-reaching. The policies of the U.S. will be central to international talks on climate change at December’s United Nations forum in Copenhagen. If, as they are saying, the road to Copenhagen runs through the Midwest, then it runs through Ohio.
Patton is a senior associate for Policy Matters Ohio.
Copyright (C) 2009 by the Ohio Forum. 5/09


Anonymous said...

It needs to new jobs and reinvestment that our lawmakers must seize the opportunity presented in the climate...

Entertainment at one stop