Brown states balance concerns for our environment, our jobs

A recent New York Times article coined the term “brown state-green state clash,” referring to the opposing viewpoints of politicians from the coasts and politicians from the Midwest and Plains States. “Green states” like California are pushing for higher fuel efficiency, more renewable energy, and other efforts to fight climate change, while “brown states” like Ohio are resisting in order to preserve our manufacturing jobs.

In particular, many brown state officials are opposed to a cap-and-trade system proposed by President Obama. This proposal sets a ceiling on carbon dioxide emissions, giving manufacturers a certain number of credits and allowing them to emit a certain amount of pollutants. If a company reduces its emissions, it can sell its excess credits to companies who pollute more.

After a failed U.S. Senate global warming bill in June 2008, ten senators from coal-dependent, manufacturing-heavy states created the “Gang of 10,” which has since grown to 15 members. Ohio’s Sherrod Brown was part of the original group. Brown claims, “There’s a bias in our Congress and government against manufacturing, or at least indifference to us, especially on the coasts.” He adds, “If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it’s cheaper.”

This seems to contradict themes echoed in both national and local politics, pushing for more “green jobs.” Environmental blog Gristmill points out that Midwest and Plains States will likely come out ahead job-wise in the push to become green: Plains States have been nicknamed “the Saudi Arabia of wind,” and the Midwest will manufacture wind turbines that are too large to be shipped from overseas. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts says, “A lot of new jobs will be created if we craft a piece of global warming legislation correctly, and that is our intention.”

Clearly, what we have is a disconnect between politicians claiming a green future will create jobs and politicians claiming exactly the opposite.

In Washington state, Democratic Senate leaders plan to direct $180 million of stimulus money to their plan “Clean Energy, Green Jobs.” One aspect of the plan, retrofitting low-income residents’ homes to be more energy efficient, will create an estimated 7,500 jobs over five years. The plan would also create an agency to oversee greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce them to 1990 levels by the year 2017. Republicans oppose the plan, saying that the new restrictions would be an impediment to businesses.

A similar movement is starting to happen in the Ohio state House, where Democrats are pushing for higher energy efficiency standards in public buildings. They claim this will cause job creation in the fields of energy-efficient design and construction. Republican Senator Jimmy Stewart said he supports the plan as long as it doesn’t create additional delays in construction.

Are our politicians effectively balancing concerns for our environment with the need to preserve jobs in our region? Will the green movement cause a gain or loss of jobs? Sound off in the comments section.

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Photo from Flickr user Caveman 92223