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Last published at August 6, 2009 at 4:00 PM

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Guest columnist

Cap-and-trade schemes could hurt families and send jobs overseas

The recently passed U.S. House bill to create a cap-and-trade system to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions threatens to hurt families and send jobs out of the country, argues Washington state Rep. Shelly Short, R-Addy. In Washington state, the definition of 'green jobs' is ill defined.

Special to The Times

Washington citizens are proud of our state's tremendous natural resources, abundance of clean, renewable energy and rich history of environmental stewardship. As one of the cleanest states, emitting less than three-tenths of 1 percent of the world's carbon, we have a lot to brag about. But you wouldn't know it by listening to our governor and congressional delegation as they advocate for a national energy tax, also called "cap and trade."

Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly adopted H.R. 2454, also known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The 1,428-page measure outlines a massive and costly energy and climate-change tax structure that aims to reduce carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020 through an energy-tax system of cap-and-trade.

Under cap-and-trade, the government would require companies emitting greenhouse gases to purchase permits for each ton they emit. The government would annually reduce the number of permits available for emitting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which would increase permit prices and ration carbon credits.

I opposed this same tax scheme when the governor and the Democratic majority in our state Legislature advocated for it this year. At a time when employers are shedding jobs and citizens are losing their homes and retirement savings, now is not the time to saddle families with new and higher taxes.

Much has been made about the creation of new "green jobs" the cap-and-tax scheme will generate. Proponents say so-called "green jobs" would make up for job losses in the "transition to a green economy." I disagree.

The governor recently boasted before Congress about the creation of 47,000 new "green jobs" under her watch. On the surface, that sounds great, right?

But, the facts might surprise you because her testimony tells us another story. As she stated, "We learned 'green jobs' are not necessarily some brand-new type of job — they are often jobs we all know, only now they include new skills." Both Congress and the majority party in Olympia have admitted there will be job losses as a result of cap-and-trade or any other carbon-reduction policy.

According to the governor, the definition of a "green job" in our state is anything she wants it to be. This year, the Legislature was given many different green-job descriptions: Chief executives, financial analysts, venture capitalists, loan officers, tour guides, escorts, explosives workers and truck drivers. The list goes on and on. As a person who expected to see jobs such as wind-turbine and solar-panel manufacturers, I was stunned to see these jobs being considered "green."

The American people deserve nothing less than honest answers to the critical questions still up for debate. Currently, 330,000 people are unemployed in our state. Our leaders in Congress and Olympia must make sure their actions will produce the outcomes we want without sacrificing working-family jobs.

It is our obligation to taxpayers to examine the financial impact of a national energy tax. We know higher business costs, including increased taxes, will be passed on to consumers. The Heritage Foundation figured the cap-and-trade bill would cost the economy $161 billion in 2020, which is $1,870 for a family of four. As more restrictions kick in, that number increases to $6,800 per family of four by 2035. This punitive tax structure will move jobs to countries that do not have an energy tax, thereby increasing unemployment in the United States.

Eliminating jobs, hurting families and further eroding our economic base are not good for Americans. Let's put the brakes on big-government tax-and-trade schemes and, instead, lower the burden on employers to ensure they have the resources to innovate and create the clean technologies of tomorrow, and the jobs that come with them.

Rep. Shelly Short, R.-Addy, represents the 7th Legislative District and is the lead member on the House Ecology and Parks Committee.

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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