Push For Clean Energy Called Jobs Generator

April 18, 2009|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Rep. John Sarbanes and environmental and labor advocates joined Friday to promote so-called "clean-energy" initiatives from which Maryland could benefit under President Barack Obama's proposed budget for next year.

One initiative, which requires polluting businesses to pay cleanup fees, could bring in as much as $1 billion a year over the next 10 years in Maryland, according to a report on Obama's budget released Friday by Environment Maryland, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Sarbanes, a Democrat from the state's 3rd District, said he was optimistic that Obama's plans for developing renewable energy and focusing on environmental sustainability could generate millions of jobs across the country. Oil companies could lose billions in tax subsidies and big industries could be forced to cover so-called "polluters pay" fees - a possibility that likely will lead to a showdown in Congress.

But Sarbanes thinks there is enough political will in Congress to tackle Obama's plans, he said. "In a sense, we're turning the Titanic when it comes to climate change," Sarbanes said.

The Environment Maryland report said Obama's proposed federal budget for 2010 would start requiring polluters to pay fees based on how much they pollute, potentially generating $646 billion in revenues over 10 years. About a quarter of those revenues would then be used to invest in clean-energy industries, such as wind, solar and geothermal power sources, the report says.

Obama's plan would also shift more than $17 billion from "polluters pay" fees into the Superfund Trust Fund - the federal program for cleaning the most polluted sites in the country.

In Maryland, some businesses and workers are positioning themselves to take advantage of the growing emphasis on clean technology and sustainable energy development. Standing with Sarbanes at a news conference Friday at a light rail stop in North Baltimore, Peter Van Buren, who runs Terra Logos Green Homes Services, said supporting programs that promote sustainable energy is "absolutely critical to the future of America."

"If we do focus on it, we will be a strong international leader on it," Van Buren said.

Dennis L. Martire, a vice president and Mid-Atlantic regional manager of the Laborers' International Union of America, said the union is trying to help its members retrain for jobs in the emerging clean-energy industry. The programs involve teaching weatherization techniques for buildings so contractors will be able to hire qualified workers.

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