By MEHAK BANSIL
Capital News Service
LANSING—With energy issues in the political spotlight, a controversial climate change proposal awaits U.S. Senate action, and Michigan’s delegation is playing a key role.
The bill, which barely passed the U.S. House, would establish a cap-and-trade system in which businesses could sell or swap the right to emit carbon into the atmosphere from smokestacks and other sources.
The bill also includes incentives for those using cleaner sources of alternative energy.
Although Democratic U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Carl Levin of Detroit support the legislation, opposing resolutions have come from the state Legislature.
While the Democratic state House urged the U.S. Senate to pass the bill, the GOP-controlled state Senate urged Congress to reject it.
According to supporters of the bill, carbon emissions are one of the largest culprits of both environmental decay and dependence on foreign oil. But regulation of emissions has become a source of conflict between those fearing job losses and those fearing the future consequences of maintaining current carbon levels.
“Prompt action on climate change is a vital part of our legacy to the nation and to our children and grandchildren,” said U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Southfield. “However, as we act, we must ensure that the U.S. energy-intensive industries are not placed at a competitive disadvantage by other nations.”
According to Levin, the bill passed by the U.S. House would make strides toward accomplishing both goals.
The opposition counters that the bill would damage Michigan’s fragile economy.
“This cap-and-tax bill is insane, especially in Michigan where we have 15.2 percent unemployment. Why we would be a Senate vote and presidential signature away from a radical energy imposition on America’s energy future that would raise people’s energy taxes and kill their jobs is beyond me,” U.S. Rep Thaddeus McCotter, R-Livonia said.
For Michigan businesses, energy bills and jobs are of vital importance in the climate change debate.
“This shows that national policy will change how some of the smaller businesses run,” said James Hallan, president of the Michigan Retailers Association. “They will now have to deal with regulation in what was a formerly unregulated industry.”
The renewable energy program of the state Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth focuses on alternative energy sources that would make dealing with the regulation into an economic boost for Michigan’s economy, proponents say.
“We think clean energy will put Michigan’s manufacturing industry back to work and help keep money in Michigan,” said James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council.
“For example, farmers with wind turbines on their property make money from the energy the turbines generate. This keeps them afloat on down years so that fluctuations in agricultural prices don’t lead to foreclosure,” Clift said.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said the Great Lakes are another source of alternative energy.
“Hydropower can be put to work to capture energy from currents and tides in the Great Lakes,” Miller said. “The best part is this can be achieved with minimal impact on the environment. Harnessing this energy will create a truly renewable and green source of clean energy.”
The bill is pending in the U.S. Senate.