Jobs, jobs, jobs – that was the message during today’s “Let’s Talk: Michigan” event with Chris Adamo, from Senator Stabenow’s office, and Alice Yates, from Senator Levin’s office. Both legislative aides agreed that the climate bill is not just about climate – it’s also about jobs and energy. They also agreed that forward movement on climate legislation will benefit Michigan, the nation, and the world. At its heart, said Adamo, climate legislation is an economic bill, one that will jumpstart investment and jobs in renewables, cleantech industries, and biofuels.
The discussion needs to shift, Adamo continued, to climate legislation as national security from an oil perspective to a technology perspective. There’s widespread worry in the American public about our dependency on foreign oil – but we don’t want to turn this into a reliance on foreign manufacturers for solar, wind, and other renewable energy technologies when we have the capacity and expertise to develop and innovate in these areas within our own nation.
Unsurprisingly, both Adamo and Yates feel that Michigan is primed to take over the role of clean energy manufacturer. According to Yates, green jobs have recently grown at a rate of 9.1% overall and 10.7% in Michigan. Yates pointed out that Michigan offers a tremendous physical, intellectual, and working infrastructure for clean tech industries to invest in.
Students from Michigan submitted questions for both Adamo and Yates, quizzing them on their bosses’ policies on everything from agricultural subsidies to fee and dividend, from EPA Clean Air Act regulation of CO2 to global regulation.
This last issue is particularly relevant in light of the recent climate change talks in Copenhagen, in which much of the discussion revolved around equity and the role developing nations need to play in comparison to developed nations. What should the United States do if other countries refuse to impose controls on greenhouse gases? According to Yates, Senator Levin has consistently argued that the best way to deal with global climate change is through global interaction – and, along with other Senators, has sent a letter to Obama outlining a number of principles to do this. She finds it heartening that China and India have both submitted their commitments to greenhouse gas emission reductions – but points to the continued need for action to occur now. Bills currently under consideration in the Senate have a variety of mechanisms to encourage other nations and trading partners to impose limits – one bill stipulates that international offsets should only be sold (to the US at least) from countries that are taking action to reduce either in a multi- or bilateral agreement; another would only provide new clean energy or energy efficiency technologies to those that agree to reduce GHG emissions; and a third would impose a sort of import tax on goods imported from countries that haven’t yet taken action.
Today’s discussion was the first in a series of discussions hosted by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy in the “Let’s Talk” initiative. Similar calls are being scheduled throughout the United States – giving students an opportunity to ask questions of their elected representatives about the issues surrounding climate policy that are important to them. For more information, or to participate in this initiative, visit http://www.bard.edu/cep/lets_talk, or e-mail the Let’s Talk team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coming up next …. a conversation with McKie Campbell, speaking about Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski’s policies on climate and environment.