LISA MULLINS: To the state of Ohio now which has several Congressional races that are up for grabs. And like everywhere in the country, the economy is issue number one there. Even when it comes to a topic like global climate change. The World's Jason Margolis has more.
JASON MARGOLIS: About 6,000 people live in the town of Wellston in Southeast Ohio. It's not far from the West Virginia border. Like many rural communities here, Wellston was built on iron and coal. At the annual Wellston Coal Festival, the Ferris wheel whirs round and round with empty carriages. Times are tough in many places, but the economy is particularly depressed in Wellston.
BOB GIBBS: How you doing ma'am? Hi, I'm Bob Gibbs running for the United States Congress.
FEMALE SPEAKER: Oh well pleased to meet you.
MARGOLIS: Bob Gibbs is a farmer turned state senator, and now Republican candidate for Congress. Gibbs talks to potential voters about out-of-control spending and regulation from Washington.
GIBBS: When I talk to business people every day, they don't know what's going to happen with their energy costs with the cap and trade policy...ï¿½
MARGOLIS: Cap and trade. That's a phrase Gibbs brings up over and over as he talks to voters.
GIBBS: Cap and trade, and stimulus and bailouts...
MARGOLIS: Gibbs is referring to an energy bill that passed the House of Representatives last year. His opponent, incumbent Democrat Zack Space voted for it. The bill would've required power plants and other polluters to cut greenhouse gas emissions or face a penalty. On the other hand, they could make money if they polluted less than the limit. The passage of a climate bill in Congress is seen as a critical step on the way to an international climate treaty. But this bill stalled in the Senate. Still, Congressional challengers like Bob Gibbs are quick to bring it up as bad for Ohio's coal and gas industries.
GIBBS: Cap and trade is a full frontal assault on those industries. And it's going to kill a lot of jobs. And I know there was a study done here that over, at least 108,000 jobs in Ohio will be lost if cap and trade passes.
MARGOLIS: Other studies present different conclusions. Research from the University of California at Berkeley estimates that a cap and trade bill could create up to 61,000 new jobs in Ohio as the state transitions to clean technologies. But Republican candidates throughout Ohio have been playing up the worst case scenario. They're keeping the message short, cap and trade is a job killer. Jane Anderson, a political scientist at the University of Cincinnati, says Republicans keep their message pithy because it works.
JANE ANDERSON: If that conjures up negative connotations in the minds of the people that you are addressing, then you just keep saying the quick little short version, and oh, oh yes, bad. You know. That's all you need to say.
JIM RENACCI: You know any cap and trade legislation is a job killing legislation for this district. It's a job killing legislation for Ohio.
MARGOLIS: That's Jim Renacci. He's the Republican Congressional nominee in Canton, in northern Ohio. Ultimately, the purpose of the failed cap and trade legislation was not jobs. It was about cutting greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change. Renacci doesn't want to talk about that.
RENACCI: Well I'm not a scientist, and quite frankly there are scientists I believe on both sides that say that there's positives and that there's negatives to all this discussion. So, I'm not going to talk as a scientist. I'm really going to talk about jobs and the economy here in the 16th district in Ohio and let the scientists make those decisions.
MARGOLIS: Most climate scientists say that human activity is almost certainly driving climate change. Democratic incumbent John Boccieri is running against Renacci. Boccieri has had to defend his vote in favor of cap and trade legislation. And he too focuses on jobs. Boccieri says the House bill would've invested close to 200 billion dollars in alternative energies, including research for capturing emissions from coal plants in Ohio.
JOHN BOCCIERI: Research that's going to create jobs right here in this state, in this community. The fact is Ohio imports a majority of its coal from other states, and why should we be importing this resource when we can create a resource right here in our state that is long-standing.
MARGOLIS: In all this back and forth on the campaign trail, any actual talk about climate change seems to have been lost. Back at the Coal Festival in Wellston, it's time for some line dancing. While I was trailing Congressional candidate Bob Gibbs, when he brought up cap and trade, it wasn't clear what it even meant to voters. I spoke with retired boilermaker Jimmy Dicken. Mr. Gibbs said to you, he mentioned cap and trade, what does that mean to you?
JIMMY DICKEN: Well, right now we have global trade going on, what he's trying to say is he's going to curb some of that, right? Get it down to a certain level. On the trading?
MARGOLIS: All of the people I spoke with didn't really understand what Gibbs meant by cap and trade. The question is, will that matter on election day? For The World, I'm Jason Margolis, Wellston, Ohio.