U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold is returning to Washington after what he called a “lively” round of county listening sessions during his August recess. Although the most high-profile issue has become health care reform, the Senate is under pressure to act on a number of other issues, including financial regulation and energy policy.
On the latter issue, he said the nation must do something to combat climate change, but he isn’t yet ready to commit to energy legislation with a so-called cap and trade provision for carbon emissions.
“I’m not signing onto any bill that rips off Wisconsin,” Feingold declared, arguing the bill’s mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions could put the coal-dependent Badger State at an economic disadvantage compared to other regions and nations.
That position runs contrary to both his party leadership and the Obama administration, which recently dispatched Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to Saginaw, Mich., to meet with Govs. Jennifer Granholm and Jim Doyle on the energy bill. Doyle came away from the clean energy economic forum convinced that cap and trade would “put some octane, so to speak, in the green energy economy.”
At the same time, Feingold said he’s “troubled” by some of his constituents’ refusal to accept the principles of global warming, but agreed with some critics who have said the bill could stifle job growth in the industrial sector and increase energy prices.
“Western Wisconsin is particularly strong in being concerned about this because of their reliance on coal,” Feingold said of the bill, which has already passed the House. “There is a real possibility … that it will be unfair to Wisconsin and Wisconsin ratepayers.”
In addition to fixing the bill’s carbon allocations to put the Midwest on better economic footing with the rest of the country, Feingold was among 10 senators to recently raise the possibility of levying tariffs on other nations — including China — that may not practice comparable environmental responsibility.
”Why should we leave ourselves completely exposed while they just get to go forward?” Feingold asked.