Brown Looks to Add More Money for Clean-Energy Jobs in Climate Bill

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Monday, September 21, 2009 at 3:14 pm

As the Senate awaits the cap-and-trade bill expected to be released sometime before the end of September, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is looking for ways to get more incentives for manufacturing and clean-energy technology in the bill that might help sweeten the deal for Midwest Democrats.

Brown has already introduced the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology Act (or, the IMPACT Act) in the Senate, which would provide $30 billion to help small and medium-sized manufacturers transition to clean energy technology through a revolving loan fund. The fund would be distributed by states to support improved energy efficiency, retooling and expansion of manufacturing for new clean-energy technology. The climate and energy bill that the House passed in June included Brown’s provision.

And last week Brown appeared at a summit hosted by Third Way and the Breakthrough Institute to discuss the creation of a $15 billion National Institutes of Energy program, modeled after the National Institutes of Health. Brown said he is considering whether to offer legislation similar to the groups’ proposal. “It more than piqued my interest,” said Brown.

Brown has been leading efforts to get more money for manufacturing in a bill, arguing that it is essential to create and protect jobs. “The climate change bill is all about jobs. I look at it as how does this help us re-industrialize America, make America better,” he said. “It’s not just about manufacturing. It’s engineers, it’s construction, it’s teachers. … I see the climate change bill not like some oil executives might say, that it’s going to cost us jobs and close down refineries. In fact it’s going to increase jobs, and they’ll be good, middle-class wage jobs if we do this right.”

Brown is an important player in the climate debate, as a generally progressive Democrat from a manufacturing and coal-dependent state. In June 2008, he voted against the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act, but afterward affirmed his support for climate action — as long as it insulated states like Ohio. “I am committed 100 percent to passing a robust cap-and-trade policy,” said Brown at the time.

This year, he may well play a key role in shaping legislation to that effect. Talking to reporters last week, he said that he “probably wouldn’t” have voted to pass the House bill, but that he “wouldn’t say it’s a no-starter.” “It’s a place to start working,” said Brown.

Brown is also involved with a group of 10 senators looking to make sure trade protections are included in the bill. He said they are in talks with the White House to make sure that is included. Obama has balked at the trade measure in the House bill, calling it too “protectionist,” but Brown said they are hopeful that they will get some sort of border adjustment in the Senate bill. “Border equalization has to be in there. If it isn’t, I certainly can’t vote for that,” said Brown.

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