WASHINGTON -- A Senate Democrat who's been worried about the impact of impending climate and energy legislation on manufacturing said Wednesday that he'd back the historic legislation if it contains enough investment incentives and protection for American businesses.
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio said those provisions, combined with limits on greenhouse gas emissions, would unleash private capital and create new businesses and a vast number of new jobs.
"Once we do that," he said, "we'll spark a new industry in this country like we haven't done in a long time."
Support from Brown and other Democrats from industrial states that are heavily dependent on coal is crucial to muster enough votes to pass the bill in the Senate.
In August, Brown led a group of 10 senators who wrote President Barack Obama to say that a climate bill had to protect American manufacturing to win their support. He said on Wednesday that the Obama administration is helping to craft a plan to protect energy-intensive industries that would face competition from countries with no climate rules. Six industries fit that profile -- glass, aluminum, cement, chemicals, paper and steel -- and Ohio has them all.
The impact of climate and energy legislation on business will be a key part of the debate on a proposed bill, set for later this fall.
Opponents charge that mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions will devastate the economy and kill jobs because it will make coal, oil and natural gas more expensive. On the contrary, Brown, clean energy business executives and administration officials said Wednesday, the bill would advance U.S. competitiveness in a new global clean-energy industry.
Brown said that climate legislation should include provisions to prevent disadvantages for U.S. manufacturers, provide long-term investment tax credits, put a price on carbon emissions, require a portion of electricity to be generated from renewable energy and help workers transition to new jobs.
Obama and Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the bill's sponsors, "understand . . . that climate legislation simply doesn't work for reducing carbon dioxide emissions if a company closes down in Findlay, Ohio, and moves to Shanghai, because carbon emissions will get worse, not to mention job loss," Brown said.
Part of that protection would be tariffs on goods from countries with no similar climate laws, Brown said.
He said that White House officials were helping senators "develop all the information we need to decide what to do at the border."
Earlier Wednesday, Carol Browner, the top White House energy adviser, said the White House wants the energy and climate bill to contain protection for energy-intensive industries that face global competition. She also listed other elements the administration wants: a national requirement to generate some electricity from renewable energy, an economy-wide system of emissions cuts and tradable pollution permits, support for nuclear energy and consumer protection.
Bill Keith, a self-described conservative businessman from Indiana who was in Washington to promote green jobs, said the new energy policy wouldn't result in job loss. "There's a jobs gain," he said.
Keith, the president of SunRise Solar Inc. of St. John, Ind., met with Browner and Brown and other senators on Wednesday along with dozens of clean-energy business executives from around the country who were lobbying for the bill.
Ten years ago, Keith said, he was hauling shingles up ladders to replace roofs and sweating in attics to install ventilation. He said he came up with the idea for a solar-powered ventilation system, built it in his garage, borrowed money against his house when banks refused to lend him enough money, and built a company that expects $4 million in revenue this year.
Keith said he buys almost everything for his business in the U.S. except the solar panels, which he said he can't get domestically and imports from Hong Kong. He said the supplier said it would make the panels in Indiana if the U.S. passed a climate and energy bill that encourages investment.
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