By  on October 2, 2009

WASHINGTON — Climate change proposals before Congress could exact a toll on the U.S. textile industry, which will face a substantial increase in operating costs that could potentially jeopardize tens of thousands of U.S. jobs, according to a report released Thursday.

President Obama has made clean-energy/climate-change legislation one of the pillars of his domestic agenda, and Congress is moving on the issue.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and John Kerry (D., Mass.) unveiled a draft bill Wednesday kicking off Senate consideration for the first time this year. The legislation would mandate a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020. The House approved a bill in June that would cap greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2012 and seek to reduce them 17 percent by 2020, relative to emissions in 2005 as a base year.

Prominent textile groups, including the National Council of Textile Organizations, American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition and National Textile Association, have voiced opposition to legislative proposals that don’t contain emission allowances for the textile industry, as well as a mandatory border-adjustment tariff to be imposed on imported products made in countries that fail to adhere to the same new emissions regulations imposed on U.S. companies.

The report from the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute estimated 4.1 million U.S. jobs, including from the textile sector, are at risk if climate change legislation pending in Congress does not provide measures to mitigate the impact of new greenhouse carbon emissions regulations and “address the lack of regulation abroad.”

“We believe that we have to urgently address the issue of climate change and that a cap-and-trade system can be workable and create jobs in the U.S., but we also believe this policy can’t be created in a vacuum,” Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said. “Unless we include China and India and other major carbon emitters in this process, any step the U.S. will take could be for naught and it could increase greenhouse gas emissions and further erode jobs in the U.S. unless there is a [substantial] border adjustment mechanism, output-based rebates and [emissions] allowances in a bill.”

The EPI report cited the top 10 energy-intensive, trade-sensitive manufacturing industries, which included textiles, where the impact of climate change legislation could have a significant adverse impact.

The additional costs to American textile producers could reach $60 million if a carbon fee of $15 a ton is assessed, while a $25 a ton fee would result in an additional $100 million, according to the EPI. The report breaks down the impact on jobs in each of the 10 industries, as well as by state. A portion of an estimated 151,800 textile and apparel and accessories manufacturing jobs, indirect and direct, could be in jeopardy, according to the report.

Addressing global warming and the pending congressional consideration ofcomprehensive legislation has compelled such companies as Nike Inc., Levi Strauss & Co., The Timberland Co., Gap Inc. and The North Face Apparel Corp. to take part in a coalition named the Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy.

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