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Cap And Trade Bill Criticized At Columbus Event

A critic of so-called federal cap and trade climate legislation says it would cost Ohio 108,000 jobs. The head of a U.S. Chamber of Commerce energy think tank also told a Columbus audience electricity prices would rise 60 percent if the bill becomes law.

Karen Harbert heads the Institute for 21st Century Energy. She says the climate bill would make doing business in the U.S. incredibly difficult.

"Instead of seizing the opportunity to put America on a more secure course, both economically and environmentally, they passed a bill that was 1500 pages - which is why they didn't read it - that is so complicated that it requires 400 new regulations and 1,060 new federal mandates." Harbert said.

The cap and trade bill links greenhouse gas emissions with climate change. It would offer incentives to power companies with low emissions while levying fines on companies which fail to cut pollution.

Harbert argues there should be greater emphasis on increasing energy efficiency. While she supports production from renewable sources, she says the U.S. should expand domestic oil and natural gas production.

"I think we should tell our elected officials that they should find ways to actually lower energy prices not increase them, expand your buying power not shrink it, grow the economy not contract it and create jobs and not destroy them," Harbert said.

But the Ohio Environmental Council's director of energy Nolan Moser disagrees. He notes a growing number of companies such as American Electric Power and Duke Energy support the legislation.

"I think it's pretty clear that there's a split in the business community. There are certainly those who say that this is a complicated, unworkable bill that isn't going to achieve its goals. There are others that say that this is a necessary step forward in a new energy economy. And that it's going to create jobs over the long term," Moser says.

Moser says passage of the bill will show the world that the U.S. is serious about dealing with climate change.

"The United States is among the world's leaders in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. We have to show some leadership and the first step is passing a strong bill that will allow us to go to the rest of the developing world and ask for major reductions from China and India. We will not get a handle on this global problem unless we're able to develop a global solution. But that's not going to happen unless we act first," Moser says.

The bill has passed the House and is being reviewed by various Senate committees. Supporters say they hope to see a final version by the end of September.