US Climate Bill delayed – US jobs hang in the balance

27 April 2010

The plan to introduce a new, bi-partisan climate and energy bill on Monday was delayed due to a disagreement over which issue the Senate should address first after financial reform: immigration or climate and energy.

Following the passage of a controversial immigration law in Arizona, the issue of immigration reform has gained attention in the US. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated that he would consider moving immigration reform alongside climate and energy on the list of legislative priorities this year, saying that the issues were “equally vital.”

In response, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), the lone Republican sponsor of the new climate bill, withdrew his support, stating in a letter to his co-sponsors that he “will be unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time.”

Graham’s protest is based on his belief that bringing up the highly divisive issue of immigration reform will make it impossible to have progress on climate and energy, and that Reid’s statements are a sign that the Obama administration and Senate leadership are not truly committed to passing climate and energy legislation this year.

“I will not allow our hard work to be rolled out in a manner that has no chance of success,” Graham said. “I look forward to continuing to work with you so that when the U.S. Senate finally decides to address this issue we will be prepared for battle and confident of a successful outcome in the effort to make our nation energy independent once and for all.”

The bill sponsors met last night for what Senator Lieberman (I-CT) described as “group therapy,” and there is hope that the Senate leadership will be able to bring Graham back to the negotiating table. If they cannot, prospects for passage of a US climate and energy bill this year would not be promising.

“The Senate leadership needs to make climate and energy the top priority,” said Amy Davidsen, US Director of The Climate Group. “A tremendous amount of work and cooperation on the part of the bill sponsors, businesses, environmental groups and others has gone into designing a bill that can pass this year. It’s very important for American jobs that we don’t miss this opportunity to benefit from a clean industrial revolution.”

“We know the rest of the world – China and Europe especially – are moving forward to develop clean energy,” said Evan Juska, Senior Policy Manager at The Climate Group. “Germany already employs 280,000 people in the renewable energy sector. This is our chance to create some of those jobs over here, by driving investment into new clean energy technologies.”

A study by the Universities of Berkeley, Illinois and Yale estimates that with comprehensive climate and energy policies in place, the US would gain at least 900,000 new jobs. And a new report by The Climate Group and The University of Michigan (using economic research from Deloitte) estimates that comprehensive climate and energy policies could create over 100,000 jobs in the Midwest by 2015 from the manufacture of wind turbine components, hybrid powertrains and advanced batteries alone.

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