Jobs bill attracts energy provisions

But climate plans face uncertain Senate prospects.

In the meantime, Van Hollen and other lawmakers and advocates are looking to jobs legislation – a top Democratic priority amid double-digit unemployment – as a vehicle for energy proposals.

A letter from Van Hollen to Obama Thursday says the U.S. is at risk of being left behind as China and other nations boost clean energy investments, and predicts that a Green Bank would spur creation of two million jobs over three years.

“In that regard, I believe forthcoming jobs legislation should include a ‘Green Bank’ to leverage large amounts of private investment in our own clean energy sector, and I hope you will use your State of the Union Address to launch a Green Bank initiative,” writes Van Hollen, who is a member of House leadership as assistant to the Speaker.

The letter says the Green Bank could be capitalized on a one-time basis with $20 billion and thereafter operate with no federal aid.

The Green Bank is not the only energy or climate proposal that lawmakers and activists want to hitch a ride on the jobs bill.

A coalition of public health and environmental advocates are urging Senate leadership to include new funding for EPA’s diesel engine retrofit program. The White House and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) are eyeing jobs legislation to carry an expansion of tax credits for manufacturing clean energy components.

A broader emissions-capping and energy bill remains part of Democratic plans in 2010, at least for now, but it remains to be seen whether proponents can assemble 60 Senate votes for legislation to impose mandatory greenhouse gas limits.

Update: Van Hollen, in a short interview Thursday afternoon, said the current focus on job creation is the reason he is eyeing that bill for his energy proposal. “The reason I wanted to bring this to the attention of the President now is that I think this is an opportunity to create jobs immediately,” he said. “Given the fact that we have a focus on job creation, it makes sense that we try and get it [a Green Bank] up and running as soon as possible.”