28 October 2010

Republican ‘Pledge’ risks eliminating thousands of clean energy jobs, warns Obama

President Obama has criticised a recent package of Republican proposals-known as the 'Pledge to America'-arguing that the republicans are looking to scrap Democrat-backed incentives for clean energy projects. President Obama has argued that the scrapping of projects already underway will hinder the creation of "hundreds of thousands of new American jobs."

In September this year, House Republicans launched the pledge as part of an election-year appeal to voters in which they vowed to cut taxes and discard President Obama's health-care and stimulus plans. The pledge will reportedly involve scrapping current incentives for clean energy projects by recalling funds laid out in the 2009 economic stimulus bill.

Within the 21-page plan, Republicans announced that the need for "urgent action" to repair the US economy and "reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated."

However, Obama said that the scrapping of green projects does not make sense both in terms of the economic future of the country and for the thousands of Americans currently seeking work,

"To go backwards and scrap these plans means handing the competitive edge to China and other nations. It means that we'll grow even more dependent on foreign oil. And, at a time of economic hardship, it means forgoing jobs we desperately need."

In his recent YouTube address, President Obama spoke specifically of the 1,000 construction jobs created by a BrightSource Energy Inc solar power plant in California, which recently obtained a loan guarantee from the Energy Department.

When complete, the plant is expected to create enough solar energy to power up to 140,000 homes. This would be the largest such plant in the world and would, says President Obama, stake the nation's claim at leadership in the global economy.

"There is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now-and growth in the coming years-than clean energy … that is why, since we took office, my administration has made an historic commitment to promote clean energy technology."

The 'Pledge to America' will potentially involve recalling any unspent funds from the 2009 economic stimulus bill, which includes billions of dollars of funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon capture and storage and electric vehicles.

In response to the president's address, Republicans countered that their pledge only calls to cancel unspent stimulus funds, not all incentives for clean energy projects. Spokesman to House Minority Leader John Boehner, Michael Steel said,
"House Republicans' 'all of the above' energy plan would actually put more money into renewable technologies, paid for by the oil industry."

The inherent disparity between America's political parties threatens to contribute to the country's political and economic crisis. Following the upcoming November election, President Obama may well find it increasingly more difficult to pass any form of legislation aimed at helping the environment. Indeed, it is likely that all major legislation and reforms are likely to be stalemated until 2013.

Regardless of outcome, the focusing on environmental issues as a subject for debate shows that climate change is still very much at the top of the political agenda. Together with health care and the stimulus package, clean energy funding continues to be an important area of discussion in the US, as it is for nations around the globe.

Author: Tom Watts | Climate Action
Images: United Nations Photo & krisgera | Flickr

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