Climate change bill's effect on Midwest debated

Some see states suffering, others see economic benefit
By Diana Marrero of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: Jun. 21, 2009

Washington - As members of Congress debate a measure aimed at slowing the effects of global warming, Midwestern lawmakers, manufacturers and farmers are warning that the legislation could be costly to the heartland at a time when families and businesses are already struggling financially.

States in the Midwest, including Wisconsin, get much of their electricity from coal, a major target of lawmakers seeking to curb greenhouse gas emissions. People in the Midwest also are more likely to drive greater distances, operate farms or work in manufacturing than those who live in coastal states.

The House could vote as early as this week on sweeping climate change legislation that would revamp the way Americans produce and consume electricity.

Midwestern Republicans are calling the measure "an economic declaration of war on the Midwest by liberals in Washington, D.C."

"This is a job killer, particularly for the upper Midwest," said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Menomonee Falls Republican who is one of the leading voices against a climate change bill.

Even Midwestern Democrats who generally support some type of action on climate change say Congress must craft a bill that is sensitive to their regional concerns. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat who leads the House Agriculture Committee, has threatened to derail the legislation if it doesn't include provisions beneficial to producers of bio-fuels made from corn and other plants.

Still, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a Madison Democrat, says she views the bill as a source of economic opportunity for the Midwest, where traditional manufacturing jobs are drying up.

"In the Midwest, you can also find enthusiastic support for it," Baldwin said. The region could position itself to gain new manufacturing jobs in a "green economy" and play a lead role in developing cutting-edge alternative energy technology, she said.

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