Thursday, February 17, 2011

Republican Cuts Target Green Jobs

President Obama's 2012 budget plan slashes the deficit by $1.1 trillion over 10 years, but House Republicans want to see at least $60 billion in cuts this year. Obama indicated that the budget he sent Congress will help meet his goal of cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term.

The Obama budget is said to have used a scapel to make cuts while at the same time increasing spending in areas deemed vital to America's competitiveness. The budget proposes tax increases for the wealthy and some businesses, and increased government investments in elementary schools and clean energy. They also integrated some interesting green ways of saving money. The State Department said it expected to save $5.3 million in energy costs over the next three years by painting the roofs of its offices in a heat-reflecting white. And the US Agency for International Development projected hundreds of thousands in paper savings by reducing the font size in its documents.

Republican cost cutting measures have been put together in the Continuing Resolution (CR), they also proposed almost 600 amendments. Many of the proposed amendments are designed to cut spending and defund policies including the Democrats green agenda. The two most important amendments for anti-environmental conservatives include Amendments No. 198 and No 149.

Amendment No. 198 seeks to block Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement. This amendment was introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R.-Tex.), it would prohibit any CR funds for the EPA to “implement, administer, or enforce” requirements pertaining to the emissions of greenhouse gases, such as the permit requirement under the Clean Air Act. With this amendment, House Republicans want to undermine the EPA's efforts to limit global warming pollution from new power plants and factories.

Amendment No. 149 wants to defund the Climate Change Panel. This amendment was introduced by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R.-Mo.), it would block any CR funds from being used for “contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

Other environmentally harmful Republican amendments include ending protection for wild lands and mountaintop removal mining. Republicans also want to take the Northern Rockies gray wolves off the endangered species list, reduce river water levels which will threaten salmon, and expedit offshore oil drilling approvals by ignoring compliance with environmental and safety measures.

The Republican track record on the environment is woeful. The League of Conservation Voters scorecard of 2010 illustrates just how unfriendly Republicans are to the environment. Now Republicans want to eliminate Obama's proposed investment in clean energy, as well as deprive the EPA and the Climate Change Panel of funding.

Democrats control of the Senate and Obama's veto powers, may be able to stave off the CR bill, but Republicans have threatened to shut down government even though this may anger Americans. According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, most Americans would not react favorably if Republicans shut down the federal government for a few weeks.

If we ignore Republican's knee jerk obstructionism, the issue comes down to whether the benefits of government spending outweigh deficit spending. Governments around the world seem to share Obama's take on the importance of government investment to help the economy and create jobs. This is particularly true for green spending which provides jobs while helping industries grow so that they can be competitive.

Republican law-makers need to be reminded that unemployment is one of America's greatest challenges and green investments create jobs. While the rest of the world is investing in employment, Republicans are trying to divest America of its ability to compete in the growing green economy.

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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