The New York Times, in an article entitled, “Geography is dividing Democrats over energy,” makes much of an alleged split between policymakers on the coasts, vs. those in the Midwest and Plains states. Somehow coal and manufacturing are grouped together, challenging a concern for global warming:

“There’s a bias in our Congress and government against manufacturing, or at least indifference to us, especially on the coasts,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. “It’s up to those of us in the Midwest to show how important manufacturing is. If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it’s cheaper.”

Since many, if not most, of my posts attempt to explain why manufacturing and green issues are mutually reinforcing instead of at loggerheads, I find this all very troubling. The problem seems to be that a cap-and-trade policy would make coal more expensive, thus making electricity for manufacturing more expensive. In addition, cap-and-trade might make energy-intensive industries, such as steel and chemicals, more expensive as well.

I think the way to square this circle is to pair cap-and-trade with direct governmental investment to assist coal dependent areas turn to green energy. In other words, if cap-and-trade legislation was passed along with funding to build the wind and solar systems needed to replace the coal plants (and the attendant electrical grid upgrades), then nobody would be worse off. In fact, the Midwest and other manufacturing states would prosper by manufacturing the very wind turbines and solar panels that would be used to replace the coal plants as well as generating any potential on-site solar and wind power. But that would require big bucks from the federal government.

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Unless cap-and-trade is accompanied by direct funding for clean energy construction, I’m afraid cap-and-trade will be in big trouble in Congress.

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