Walden calls Obama's energy bill 'an Oregon job killer'

WHITE CITY — Rep. Greg Walden said Saturday that an energy bill hailed by the Obama administration as a "jobs bill" is "an Oregon job killer." Speaking to TV cameras in front of White City's Biomass One site for recycling wood waste, The 2nd District Republican denounced the bill's definition of renewable energy.

"Where the measure could create jobs in the woods, create new markets for woody biomass, attract new investment to our rural communities, it instead turns off the oxygen and pulls the plug by declaring woody biomass from all federal lands, and most private forest lands, is not renewable," Walden said.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bill proposal to tackle climate change is intended to cap greenhouse gases and reduce the nation's reliance on fossil fuels. The administration of President Barack Obama on Wednesday came out in support of the proposal.

Walden questioned how many people in Washington actually had read the bill as he brandished the 648-page document in the air and said he has read it.

The draft bill aims at a 20-percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 2005 levels by 2020, and an 83-percent reduction by mid-century. Walden said that would cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to the level of 1911, or about the level of present-day Nigeria.

There is a 79-year backlog of thinning work in the forests, he said.

"We need to turn this around by creating a market for the biomass," he said, "not destroying it."

The bill would create a new "cap and tax," Wall Street-like trading market for carbon emissions.

Walden, a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, took part in marathon hearings on the bill all week, questioning former Vice President Al Gore, among others, on the wisdom of excluding biomass from the bill, and the effect it would have on federal forests.

The bill provides for a national cap-and-tax regimen that would tax domestic energy producers for their carbon emissions — a tax Walden said would be passed on to consumers. Walden says other provisions in the bill also would increase the cost of energy, such as a new federal renewable electricity standard.

He said that would be especially damaging in Oregon, which already has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, by excluding federal biomass from the country's renewable energy portfolio, thus dealing a blow to a promising new industry in rural Oregon.

Walden said the bill creates new federal mandates on everything from outdoor light bulbs to Jacuzzis.

He said he would introduce amendments to add biomass to the bill's list of qualifying renewable energy sources, and another to count generating dams installed before 2001, which the bill also excludes.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.

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