Alaskans are starting to get heated up over climate legislation pending in Congress.
Friends and foes in Anchorage this week are taking their ideas and concerns on the public circuit, with an anti-bill rally on Monday and a pro-bill roundtable discussion scheduled on Wednesday.
At Monday morning's downtown rally, Alaska business leaders and political conservatives argued that the bill will cook Alaska's goose: future oil and gas production, both onshore and offshore. The rally was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and 40 to 50 local organizations, according to local organizer Willis Lyford. The API is sponsoring roughly 20 similar rallies in cities around the country.
Nearly one-third of Alaska's workers owe their jobs to the oil industry, warned Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO, citing a recent University of Alaska Anchorage study.
"This legislation will cost jobs in the long term," Beltrami said.
The legislation is a bid to prevent significant damage from climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In Alaska, climate change has been blamed for declining sea ice, melting permafrost and costly damage to coastal communities.
If passed, the bill, titled the American Clean Energy and Security Act, would create new costs for energy producers and distributors, from refineries to coal-fired power plants, and other companies that emit greenhouse gases. Those costs would be passed along to U.S. consumers. Just how much it will cost is a major bone of contention: Many conservatives claim it will ruin the U.S. economy but Democrats say the bill's costs are relatively minor, especially when compared to the catastrophic costs of not regulating greenhouse gases.
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