2008-05-31 / News

Guest column: Voinovich addresses costs of climate change legislation

By Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety

There is a gathering storm on the horizon for Ohio - a storm that could deal a destructive blow to our state's already struggling economy and your quality of life. In its wake, Ohioans could see the loss of thousands of goodpaying jobs, shocking increases in natural gas, electricity and gasoline prices and pocketnumbing decreases in household incomes.

This storm comes in the form of current legislative efforts in Washington to mandate massive reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The debate is not about whether or not these reductions are necessary - most agree that we must act quickly to address climate change. The debate is about whether or not to invest the time and effort necessary to do it in a responsible, comprehensive and pro-growth fashion as opposed to rushing through an irresponsible, piecemeal plan that will raise energy costs on already-hurting families, send jobs overseas and fail to help the environment as intended.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, I am at the center of this debate, and I believe Ohioans should pay close attention. The decisions made could result in the most massive bureaucratic intrusion into the lives of Americans since the creation of the Internal Revenue Service.

I have long championed harmonizing our economic, energy and environmental needs. I did so as mayor of Cleveland and governor of Ohio and had great success bringing both sides to the table for the betterment of Ohio and the nation. That is why I am so committed to educating my colleagues and Ohioans about the unprecedented opportunity we have before us when it comes to crafting a comprehensive solution to climate change. We must be smart and measured in our steps forward, always keeping what is best for working families, seniors and those trying to make ends meet on fixed incomes in mind.

The smart way to go about addressing this problem isn't through unilateral actions that would hurt our economy and drive jobs overseas. But the policy proposal now under consideration in the Senate - the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act - would do exactly that.

A recent analysis of the bill by the Environmental Protection Agency provided a devastating critique of the policy proposal - estimating that passage could result in annual losses in gross domestic product (GDP) as high as $2.5 trillion by 2030. By 2050, annual losses in GDP could be as high as $5 trillion, with electricity rates doubling over the same time period.

The impact of this legislation will be disproportionately felt by states like Ohio who depend on coal for much of their energy needs. Duke Energy, a major electricity provider in Ohio, has released data indicating that if the policy becomes effective in 2012, customers in their service area could suffer a 53 percent increase in electricity bills.

According to a recent study by the American Council for Capital Formation, Ohio would lose 139,000 jobs by 2020. By 2050, net job losses could grow as high as 487,000. And with Ohio consumers paying as much as 29 percent more for gasoline, 50 percent more for natural gas and 80 percent for electricity, disposable household income would be reduced $1,928 per year by 2020 and $3,522 per year by 2050.

Additionally, the Lieberman- Warner bill completely disregards the international dimension of the problem. Countries like China and India refuse to slow their economic development in order to address climate change. China puts two new coal-fired power plants in service every week and now uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. India is building the largest coal mine in the world. With facts like these, America could totally shut down all its emissions producing activities today, and we wouldn't even make a dent in global CO2 emissions.

Americans should not suffer for symbolism while countries like China and India emit increasingly large quantities of greenhouse gases without consequences. Ohioans are already struggling with the cost of living due to higher prices for gasoline, home heating fuel, electricity, food and health care. Lieberman- Warner will only make things worse.

We cannot tolerate policies that harm our economy and drive business overseas to countries that do not recognize their environmental responsibilities, or just do not have the political will to act. We will then be worse off on two counts - fewer jobs and an environment that isn't any cleaner than when we started.

That is why I am spearheading the development of an alternative solution to climate change that is less intrusive, less costly and that will achieve greater environmental benefits than the one option now before us. The smart way to address this problem is through collaborative, multinational efforts to develop and deploy the clean energy technologies that everyone recognizes as necessary to solve this global environmental problem.

In order to weather the approaching storm, we must put technology first. By working together to do so, we can truly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, move toward energy independence, create new jobs and enhance Ohio's competitive position in the global marketplace.

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