Cap-and-trade will allow us to lead the clean energy industry

The current clean-energy dividend legislation will not make U.S. businesses less competitive in the global market; on the contrary, it will secure America's place as a leader of the future of the industry.

Few pieces of legislation can have a more profound effect on the U.S. economy than the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

The bill will break our dangerous reliance on foreign oil, make our nation the world leader in clean energy jobs and technology, and cut down on dangerous factors which accelerate the deteriorating atmosphere. Freedom, independence and self- sufficiency are at the heart of who we are as a nation, and they should be at the heart of our strategy for energy independence.

What exactly does the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 mean for U.S. businesses? A clean energy dividend system, also referred to as cap-and-trade, could generate new funds to invest in America's future.

The clean energy dividend system would limit carbon emissions and require companies that produce or use carbon energy to buy carbon emission credits from the government or an open market.

The revenue generated by auctioning carbon allowances can be used to finance public projects and put millions of Americans back to work transforming our homes, buildings and transportation needs for new energy efficiency standards with jobs that can't be shipped overseas.

We cannot compete in the 21st century with a 20th-century mindset. Opponents of clean energy dividends argue that it would disproportionately burden the states that rely on coal for electric generation and-or energy-intensive industries like aluminum, concrete and steel.

They fail to realize, however, that this legislation is about our future and that it will create the demand for new highly marketable technologies.

Pennsylvania's Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle, who represents the Pittsburgh area, has expressed his concern that the pollution penalty could put American steel mills and cement factories at a disadvantage to overseas competitors that do not have pollution restrictions.

Does this mean we should loosen our child labor laws so that we can compete with sweatshops? No -- we should set the example and invite other nations into the clean energy cash back solution.

It also is important to remember that, if the clean energy dividend system is enforced, the manufacturing sector will have a boost of new investment and have the opportunity to supply the parts and products needed for the next frontier in American business.

The returns from the emission credits could also help to revitalize the workforce, leading to significant job creation. For example, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 billion spent on transportation infrastructure adds up to $6 billion in GDP and creates at least 35,000 jobs here in the United States.

The clean energy dividends will also boost the traditional American manufacturing sector to start supplying the parts and products needed for the next frontier in American business.

The United States led the world in manufacturing of the first automobile; we should lead the market again with the manufacturing of the next generation of fuel-efficient cars, energy-efficient products and safe energy technologies.

Acting now to ensure our commitment for energy independence and clean energy not only affects the air we breathe and the water our children drink, but it also positions the United States at the head of the future of the energy, manufacturing and technology debate.

We've led the world in the past, and now it's time that we lead again. Leading this debate will help American businesses. It's time we start to export energy and technology, not jobs. Industry can plan, invest and grow.

Isaacs is the national director of Americans for Democratic Action (, America's largest and oldest independent liberal lobbying organization. Readers may write to her at ADA, 1625 K St. NW, Suite 210, Washington, D.C. 20006.