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Brown Sees Pivotal Moment For Industry

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Brown Sees Pivotal Moment For Industry

National Journal – During the ongoing climate change discussions, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., has emerged as the Senate's point man on the industrial Midwest. Brown, who is widely considered to be a liberal, is pushing Senate Democrats to require that importers pay a carbon dioxide fee for products made in countries that don't control their greenhouse gases. He also wants Congress to provide free allowances under the cap-and-trade program to companies that need to transition to using cleaner-burning fuels and manufacturing green-energy products.

Brown talked about his position on climate change in an Oct. 23 interview with National Journal reporter Margaret Kriz Hobson.

NJ: How did you get involved in the climate change negotiations?

Brown: I'm not really on any of the committees that mark up [climate change legislation]. I'm on Agriculture, but [Chairwoman Blanche] Lincoln is likely not going to mark up.

I got involved early in the term, during roundtables around the state. I've done about 140 roundtables. The more I did these, the more I saw a road ahead on climate change and how we can do climate change right, and get to the target [greenhouse gas emission reduction] numbers. I think the whole idea of climate change legislation is a moral question. I want this to work. I'm not doing any of this to slow it down or to kill it, unlike some. No names, but I think that typically happens around here.

There are six major industries that are trade-sensitive that are energy-intensive: aluminum, cement, chemicals, glass, paper and steel. And Ohio has all of them. So we included several of them in the roundtables. It became increasingly clear to me where we need to go on this.

Ultimately, climate change is a jobs issue. And if we do it right, we can make my state the Silicon Valley of alternative energy. Toledo, Ohio, already has more solar jobs than any city in America. We have the largest insulation company.

If we don't do climate change right, we lose manufacturing jobs and we really lose in the net increase in carbon dioxide emissions if the jobs go overseas, particularly to the developing countries, because they emit more.

It's a question of two categories in this bill for me. One is: What happens to consumer prices, do we blunt the price spikes? Then there's the question of manufacturing. There are three things we need to make this work right for U.S. manufacturing and our place in the world and to deal with the moral issue. First, it's dealing with [free emission credits under the proposed cap-and-trade program] in a way that works for manufacturing. Second is some border adjustment, which is a key to this. And third is assistance for transitional industries. To go from mostly auto chain supply, at least in my part of the country, to alternative energy. If you can make glass for cars, you can make glass for solar panels. If you make gears for trucks, you can make gearboxes for wind turbines.

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