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Energy bill will help solve Houston's jobless problem

"Energy bill will help solve Houston's jobless problem(By U.S. REP. Shelia Jackson Lee via Houston Chronicle)Our state is facing an unemployment rate of around 7.5 percent, the highest
it has been in the past 16 years. While this is 2 percent less than the
national average, Texas has not seen unemployment this high since 1993.
Last month alone, Texas lost 40,600 jobs.H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, was proposed
to address the unemployment crisis in Texas and elsewhere in the country.
Specifically, H.R. 2454 promises to create 1.7 million well-paying jobs.
These jobs are derived from billions of dollars in green-energy-industry
investment that is expected once H.R. 2454 becomes law.Along with creating new jobs, H.R. 2454 offers other opportunities for the
18th District. Specifically, experts predict the efficiency standards in
the bill will allow Houstonians and the rest of America to collectively
save $29 billion over the next 10 years. Further, energy reform legislation
promises to generate $190 billion over the next 15 years to fuel the
creation of new businesses in the energy sector. Finally, H.R. 2454 aims to
increase our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil
and preserve our planet by reducing the pollution that causes global
warming.As an energy capital of the world, it is critical for Houston to be at the
forefront in the quest for clean, renewable energy. In addition to having
energy companies as constituents, I have spent a career working in the
energy sector, representing big and small oil companies alike. And while
Houston is home to some of the largest petroleum companies in the world,
our city is also the headquarters for leading solar- and wind-power firms.Energy reform offers significant opportunities for Houston, but it also
comes with a number of challenges, particularly for our city's petroleum
community. Namely, the bill does not provide petroleum companies the same
credits afforded to companies in other areas of the energy sector. As such,
I was faced with a dilemma.With this tough choice before me, I sought out advice from my constituents
both inside and outside the petroleum industry. I was urged to barter my
vote to negotiate with the House leadership to win key concessions to help
my constituents. And that I did.For petroleum workers, I secured legislation to assist those displaced by
the bill to get the training and support they need to find new green jobs.
For elderly homeowners and owners of homes in Houston's distressed
neighborhoods, I've worked to ensure the bill does not devalue their homes'
efficient-labeling program. With my input, owners of older homes do not
have a mark against them for not employing the "green labeling" system
common in most new construction. Moreover, I worked to include a provision
in the energy bill that ensures that minority-owned and women-owned
businesses can benefit from grants aimed at stimulating business
development.Despite these improvements to the energy reform bill, there is still more
that needs to be done to improve the legislation before it becomes law. I
believe that America should have a diversity of energy sources, including
fossil fuels and wind, solar and hydropower sources. As such, I am working
diligently with my congressional colleagues from around the country to
ensure that the energy bill is improved to ensure that the domestic
petroleum sector remains a valuable component of our nation's seamless
energy policy.In addition, I'm also looking to the current debate over health care reform
to take a second bite at the apple to advance Houston's energy priorities.
Specifically, I've proposed to incorporate into the health care bill a
program to encourage construction of green community health centers. This
idea was inspired by the fact that many of the places in our community that
provide health care services to the sick are located in buildings that are