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Timmons: An Anti-Energy’ Bill Is the Wrong Approach Today

When the Senate takes up legislation that attempts to address climate change next month, everyone should be clear the debate is really about an energy bill — or more accurately, an “anti-energy— bill.

[IMGCAP(1)]All the capping and trading, regulating and taxing in the 1,428-page House bill are designed to discourage the use of fossil fuels by making them more expensive. A Senate bill will likely be similar.

Electrical generation, transportation and industry represent the greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By definition, any strategy for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases must control these economic activities — activities that produce jobs, growth and prosperity.

So we can add “anti-jobs— and “anti-growth— to the bill’s description.

By raising the price of fossil fuels, the House-passed bill written by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and any similar Senate counterpart would deliver a blow to the ability of manufacturers in America to compete in the global marketplace.

The competitive damage would be especially severe if the United States acts unilaterally, and China, India and other manufacturing economies do not limit their own emissions. As we know by recent statements from their government leaders, these countries have no interest in doing so. We should not cap the economy of the United States with the hope that others will one day decide to follow suit.

Manufacturers in the United States support environmental stewardship and proudly point to the progress industry has already made in conservation and energy efficiency.

In that spirit, members of the National Association of Manufacturers from across the country actively offered their perspective and expertise as House leadership and the Energy and Commerce Committee drafted the Waxman-Markey bill. NAM welcomed many provisions in the House bill, including the expansion of research and development for clean energy technologies, support for carbon capture and sequestration projects, incentives for energy efficiency, and worker training in clean energy industries.

Incentives for expedited development of nuclear energy production were also a positive, although not as strong as needed. The expansion and development of nuclear power, clean coal technology and natural gas should be central if we are serious about maintaining our robust electrical generation capacity.

Yet all these policies have merit of their own, and it does not require a wrenching restructuring of the U.S. economy and energy usage to enact them. That the House bill sought too many drastic changes, too fast, is clear; sponsors had to delay effective dates for years and years and carve out exemption upon exemption to win even the narrowest of passages, 219-212.

NAM, acting through its “Key Vote— committee representing a cross section of companies large and small, formally opposed Waxman-Markey because of the serious risk it posed to the manufacturing economy in the United States.

Could the Senate debate on a cap-and-trade, climate change bill develop differently? It’s possible. Many House Members who voted for Waxman-Markey heard from angry constituents during the Independence Day recess. With jobs and economic recovery at stake, a climate change bill that adds costs and regulatory burdens to business is not logical, and the Senate might produce more thoughtful legislation that first protects the American economy and jobs.

The Senate also benefits from the parallel consideration of the energy bill sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). The American Clean Energy Leadership Act, while not perfect, does promote development of clean energy technologies, conservation and efficiency, and — critically for the manufacturing sector — calls for expanded production of domestic energy resources like natural gas and oil. It also contains vital language about upgrading the nation’s power grid.

If these principles and goals shape Senate consideration of a climate change bill, then we will come much closer to the debate Congress and the country should be having — that of a comprehensive national energy strategy that is cognizant of how our economy uses energy and the significant work already being done to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

In September, the United States will be in its 20th month of recession — the longest, deepest economic slowdown since the Great Depression. More than 6 millions jobs have been lost, and manufacturing has suffered disproportionately, losing 1.8 million jobs.

Given these national difficulties, it seems hard to justify an “anti-energy,— “anti-jobs— and “anti-growth— bill such as the House produced. Congress’ priority should be putting America back to work. Making the United States less competitive is not the way to accomplish that goal.

Jay Timmons is executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.

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