Sanders plays key role in energy bill consideration

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(Host) Senator Bernie Sanders is playing a key role in the Senate’s consideration of a comprehensive energy bill.

Sanders is sponsoring a plan to create new job training programs to help prepare workers for high tech positions in the renewable energy field.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The new positions are known as “green collar jobs” and backers of the energy bill say these jobs represent the economic cornerstone of the legislation.

The bill provides tens of millions of dollars to train workers to install, maintain, manufacture and operate all of the technologies that are associated with renewable energy projects.

Sanders is in a unique position in the U.S. Senate. He’s the only member who serves on the three key committees dealing with this bill- Energy, Environment and Labor:

(Sanders) “I am very excited about both the economic opportunities in front of us and the possibility of Vermont playing a leadership role in breaking our dependence on fossil fuel, moving towards energy efficiency, moving to sustainable energy. This is a very exciting moment if we do the right things and we’re prepared to be bold.”

(Kinzel) The goal of the energy bill is to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Sanders acknowledges that the legislation will result in the loss of some jobs. But he argues that his workforce training plan will help many people find new employment:

(Sanders) “Will some people in the coal industry lose their jobs? Yes. And we have to deal with that reality. What you are finding is that the green technology approach is in fact creating a lot more jobs than we’re losing.”

(Kinzel) The Apollo Alliance is a non profit organization that consists of dozens of groups that are calling for a major reduction in this country’s reliance on foreign oil. Dan Seligman is the spokesperson for the Alliance:

(Seligman) “Senator Sanders was the leader on this green collar job workforce development initiative. He took it from concept to completion in the course of two or three months, building support across party lines.”

(Kinzel) Another key part of the bill increases fuel efficiency standards for all cars and trucks by 2020.

Paul Burns is the director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. He says this part of the bill would have a big impact in Vermont.

(Burns) “It’s very clear that a majority of our greenhouse gas emissions are linked to transportation in this state now. So anything that we can do to get better gas mileage in the vehicles that we drive is going to be a big, big benefit for Vermonters.”

(Kinzel) It’s likely that the Senate will continue to debate the energy bill into next week. Opponents of the new fuel efficiency standards are expected to offer a competing amendment that would scale back this part of the bill.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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