Washington » Democrats say their climate change bill will reduce harmful emissions and create a boom in green-collar jobs that will help power the economy in the years to come.
But Western Republicans, led by Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, don't buy it. They held a news conference Tuesday to rail against what Bishop calls "government-dictated green jobs," which they argue will be unsustainable in the long run.
"Some of those jobs are as real as the Jolly Green Giant: it is a great ad concept, but it doesn't exist," Bishop said.
Fervent Republican opposition, combined with the reticence of conservative Democrats like Utah's Jim Matheson, has thrown into question whether President Barack Obama and House Democrats can deliver a major climate bill this year, as they have promised. Their legislation caps emissions and allows lower-polluting companies to sell their carbon credits to higher-polluting companies, known as a cap and trade system.
Obama believes this approach will spur businesses to quickly reduce emissions and provide funding to help develop renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
Bishop, who leads the Western Caucus, invited professor Gabriel Calzada from Spain's King Juan Carlos University to talk about how he believes a similar approach failed in the European nation.
Calzada, who released a study in March, said Spain had to heavily subsidize the renewable-energy industry. Most of the 50,000 jobs that were created as a result went to constructing turbines and installing solar panels, with only 10 percent of the positions existing on any permanent basis. The professor argues that Spain would have seen more economic success if it took the money it spent on renewables and used it on more established resources.
"We haven't produced jobs, we have destroyed jobs with this," he argues.
Bishop said he doesn't oppose renewable energy or a move toward green jobs, but he does think Democrats are moving away from oil and gas too quickly. He's sponsoring a bill that would help invest in renewables by increasing royalties on fossil fuels taken from federal lands, but with a Democratic-controlled Congress and Obama in the White House, his proposal has little chance of going forward.
That said, Bishop believes it would make for stronger legislation if Democrats spurred a slower transition to new forms of energy.
"We want to have jobs that basically come from the private sector rather than from a government mandate," he said. "Those are the jobs that actually stay."