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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2010

Senate hopeful Portman denies Ohio Democrats' charge of 'flip-flop' energy legislation

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER
Rob Portman, left, speaks with Walter Sahloff, a shop foreman at Brennan Industrial Truck Co. in Holland. Mr. Portman toured the factory and spoke to workers there Wednesday. Rob Portman, left, speaks with Walter Sahloff, a shop foreman at Brennan Industrial Truck Co. in Holland. Mr. Portman toured the factory and spoke to workers there Wednesday.
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Rob Portman, the GOP candidate to replace U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio), toured a Holland business Wednesday and denied Democratic attacks that he had "flip-flopped" on energy legislation.

Democrats claimed Mr. Portman's newest campaign commercial in opposition to the Democratic-backed cap-and-trade bill contradicts a position he took in a column he wrote in 1996.

"Congressman Portman is running from the 20 years he spent in Washington pushing trade policies that outsourced Ohio jobs," Haley Morris, a spokesman for the Ohio Democratic Party, said. "The only thing Ohioans learn about Congressman Portman from this ad is that his positions go whichever way the wind blows."

Mr. Portman said Democrats were mixing apples and oranges, and said he had never supported anything like the cap-and-trade bill that he said would be devastating to Ohio businesses.

In a 1996 column, Mr. Portman said that, "Private-sector incentives, such as permitting companies to trade discharge outputs, can reduce both pollution and costs."

A key aspect of the cap-and-trade bill in Congress is that businesses which emit fewer greenhouse gases than they are allowed could sell those emissions credits to other businesses.

"Cap and trade is not a voluntary exchange of permits. It's a huge new tax. It will be terrible for Ohio," Mr. Portman said. "We're particularly hit hard by cap and trade because we have a lot of coal. Over 85 percent of us get our electricity from coal. This'll cost 100,000 jobs in Ohio if it passes."

Mr. Portman, a former Cincinnati-area congressman as well as former trade representative and budget director under President George W. Bush, is running against Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, a Democrat, for the Senate seat.

In his TV commercial - his second of the campaign - Mr. Portman said "there's a better way" to stop the dependence on foreign oil, create jobs, and have a cleaner environment. He called for the United States to invest in oil exploration, natural gas, nuclear energy, and alternative energy sources.

Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken voiced the Democratic theme of the day in a hastily called news conference outside the Brennan Industrial Truck Co. in Holland, where Mr. Portman was talking to workers.

"Now he says cap and trade doesn't work. Ten years ago, he called it incentives to accomplish virtually the same thing," he said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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