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Senator Offers Republican Alternative to Cap-and-Trade System

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, last Monday outlined a Republican response to what he calls the Democrats' "job-killing" and expensive cap-and-trade system for controlling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The Democrats' cap-and-trade system was also critisized by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who called it a "dead end" and "an enormous threat to our economy."

The four-step GOP plan calls for the construction of 100 new nuclear power plans over the next two decades; increased offshore oil and natural gas exploration; electric vehicles; and the doubling of energy research to make renewable energy cost-competitive. Republicans offered similar proposals in the House in June, but they went nowhere (see NGI, June 15).

The Republican plan would "create jobs, lower utility bills and put the United States within the goal of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming by 2030 without the expensive cap-and-trade and renewable mandates passed by the House of Representatives" in late June, Alexander said at the National Press Club in Washington, DC (see NGI, June 29).

He called the House plan a "high-cost solution to clean energy and climate change. Its economy-wide cap-and-trade and renewable energy mandate is a job-killing, $100 billion-a-year national energy tax that will add a new utility bill to every American family budget."

Alexander said that while nuclear power currently generates only 20% of America's electricity, it produces 70% of carbon-free, pollution-free electricity. He noted that 100 new nuclear plants would double the amount of electricity generated from nuclear power in 20 years.

"Add 10% for sun and wind and other renewables, another 10% for hydroelectric, maybe 5% more for natural gas, and we begin to have a cheap as well as clean energy policy," Alexander said.

"We should want an America in which we create hundreds of thousands of 'green jobs,' but not at the expense of...throwing them [existing workers] out of work in manufacturing and high tech. That's what will happen if these new technologies raise the price of electricity and send manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries overseas searching for cheap energy."

The Democrats' cap-and-trade system "would undermine our recovery over the short term and would inflict permanent damage," Palin wrote in an op-ed article in the Washington Post last Tuesday.

According to Palin, the cap-and-trade system would immediately increase unemployment in the energy sector and other jobs would be threatened by the cost of doing business under the plan. Cap-and-trade will also increase the cost of electricity, she said.

Instead, she said, the country should focus on domestically available fuels, including natural gas, coal and oil, and drilling offshore and in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

"Can America produce more of its own energy through strategic investments that protect the environment, revive our economy and secure our nation? Yes, we can. Just not with Barack Obama's energy cap-and-tax plan," Palin wrote.

Alexander is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which is expected to complete its mark-up of climate change legislation in early September. Debate on the Senate floor will likely occur this fall, but many Capitol Hill observers believe it will be an uphill battle to get a climate change bill through the Senate, a conference committee and on President Obama's desk this year.

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