It’s scary to think some people in the American auto and energy industries may lose their jobs due to federal requirements to reduce greenhouses gases that contribute to climate change. Everyone is in favor of doing “something” about the problem as long as it doesn’t affect me, right?
The writers of the Climate Security Act (CSA) of 2008 (being debated by the US Senate over the next week) have proposed provisions that will help re-train workers and provide up to three years of wages and health insurance for anyone who loses their job due to climate change regulations.
An example from history shows how a massive workforce re-training might work. During World War II, the federal government designed a program to train unskilled workers for skilled labor called, “Training Within Industry” and was part of the War Manpower Commission, all designed by the Department of War. You may remember seeing photos of housewives working on the factory conveyor belt building supplies and weapons for the troops in Europe. It ran from 1940-1945. More than 1.6 million workers were trained.
The CSA bill creates an “ENERGY EFFICIENCY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY WORKER TRAINING PROGRAM.—For each of calendar years 2012 through 2050, to carry out the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Worker Training.
Imagine if abandoned auto factories were re-opened to build giant wind turbines (currently built overseas) or giant coal mining pits could become fields of solar panels? What if an American company creates the technology to capture carbon emissions, or run appliances on a fraction of what we do now? Will we outsource that production to other countries or take care of our own workers and build up our own economy through green jobs?
I’ll never forget my conversation last December with the Environmental Minister from the country of Swaziland, in Africa. We were both attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali. “We have missed the USA’s cooperation and leadership over the last eight years. But we welcome you back to the table. American business has always led the world in medicine, technology and space. We are confident Americans can still find solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The rest of the world will buy this technology for our own countries.”
Also in the CSA bill, the CLIMATE CHANGE WORKER ASSISTANCE PROGRAM would “ensure that any individual workers and groups of employees that are adversely affected by Federal policy and climate change legislation receive the benefits, skill training, re-training, and job search assistance that will enable the workers and groups to maintain self-sufficiency and obtain family-sustaining jobs that contribute to overall economic paid unemployment and health care benefits for up to 3 years.” (S. 3036, June 3, 2008)
Who will pay for this expensive stuff? Industrial and utility polluters who can’t find ways to reduce their own emissions under the capped level. Polluting our air will no longer be a free right of passage. It will become a cost of doing business like paying for waste disposal. Some argue those companies will just pass those costs onto consumers. Probably, but there’s another fund to help low-income people pay for that.
This carbon emissions “cap-and-trade” bill has a big selling point that there will be no increased federal taxes. In fact, some of the funds collected from the auction of emissions credits will be put into a fund that reduces the federal deficit (now more than $9 trillion). Imagine that—polluters having to pay for the Iraq war we got into, that some believe was only started to protect our country’s ability to burn more oil.