President Obama has spent billions trying to foster a clean energy economy and now some of his supporters want to augment those efforts by creating a carbon tax and increasing the number of jobs covered by union agreements.
The United Steelworkers and BlueGreen Alliance are rallying behind President Barack Obama's renewable energy agenda while offering their own blueprint to increase unionization of the clean energy sector and impose a carbon tax.
The groups plan to defend the president's use of stimulus money on green energy at an event Tuesday and call for more action to create jobs while cutting carbon pollution, including renewable energy mandates and lower market barriers to renewable projects.
Some of their proposals go beyond Obama's own platform, however, including a call for the imposition of a price on carbon emissions.
"We must also focus on develop a domestic renewable energy industry that supports workers and communities, including proper siting of renewable energy projects, ensuring quality safety standards for workers, and improving the union density in these industries so that they are comparable and even surpass union density in the fossil fuels industry," the groups say.
United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard and BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster plan to brief reporters on what they consider the successes of Obama's economic stimulus law, which Republican nominee Mitt Romney has assailed as a handout to political cronies.
"Without swift action to transition to clean and renewable sources of energy and use our energy more efficiently, we risk not only our competitiveness and security, but also the welfare of our people and environment," the group says in excerpts of the blueprint provided to EnergyGuardian.
The alliance is a coalition of 15 labor unions and environmental groups, including the United Steelworkers, that have advocated for federal support for renewable energy jobs. It is chaired by Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Gerard.
The groups are hoping to piggyback on attention to the second presidential debate to be held Tuesday evening at Hofstra University in suburban Long Island.
"During the presidential and vice presidential debates that have taken place, candidates skewed the facts on programs such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which have accelerated job creation," the groups said in an advisory issued Monday. Gerard, Foster and a clean energy worker from Missouri will "set the record straight on America's green jobs successes," they added.
Obama backed a cap-and-trade carbon reduction plan in the first two years of his administration, but dropped his support after it was rejected by Republicans and a handful of Democrats in the Senate.
Since then he has sought to cut carbon emissions through higher auto mileage standards and regulations on major carbon sources, including power plants. Obama has also called for the adoption of a national clean energy standard, one that includes renewable energy, natural gas and nuclear power.
The groups also call for more federal energy research spending, and a national strategy that spurs domestic green energy manufacturing that increases union jobs, and development of the so-called "smart grid" transmission system.
Romney has said he will scale back federal support for green energy to research spending only, and does not support tax breaks for wind and solar projects and manufacturing. He also has said he does not support the higher auto mileage targets. His plan centers on expanded domestic oil and gas drilling, boosting oil imports from Canada, and easing regulations on coal mining and coal-fired power plants.