Americans Need Jobs; Clean Energy Legislation Will Generate Them

When President Obama outlined his plan for generating more jobs in America in his speech on Tuesday, he included clean energy initiatives among his top three employment strategies.

I applaud the president’s plan. Clean energy programs are a proven way to put Americans back to work right now.

Numerous studies by leading economists have found that shifting America to a cleaner energy supply will generate millions of jobs. In fact, green jobs are already growing 2.5 times as fast as traditional jobs.

I wasn’t surprised to see clean energy figure prominently in Obama’s speech. Just last week at the White House forum on jobs and economic growth, the president described the link between promoting energy efficiency and creating jobs. He mentioned a possible “cash for caulkers” program modeled on the highly successful “cash for clunkers.” The plan would put construction workers, who have been hit hard by the housing crisis, back to work making America’s homes more energy efficient.

To tap the full potential of such a program, American businesses and homeowners need an incentive to invest in improving efficiency. President Obama’s jobs strategy is a good start, but comprehensive clean energy policies will go much farther.

Researchers at UC Berkeley found that thanks to the energy efficiency measures included in the clean energy and climate bill passed by the House in June, we could create as many as 1.9 million jobs between 2010 and 2020.

We’re talking about many hundreds of thousands of jobs spread across all 50 states.      

According to a UMass study, Pennsylvania alone could produce 71,667 clean energy jobs--opportunities for steelworkers who produce components to build wind turbines, electricians who install solar panels, and engineers who devise the next generation of efficient appliances.

People like Jim Bauer. At 48, he was forced to retire from his job as a crane operator for the United States Steel Corp. in Fairless Hills, PA. Bauer looked around at the area’s shuttered mills and worried about his options. But then Spanish wind energy giant Gamesa moved in to Fairless Hills and started hiring. Now Bauer constructs windmill hubs in the building that used to house his old steel mill’s machine shop.

Or people like Robin Scott, another Pennsylvania. Scott got laid off from his window factory job with one day’s notice. Three months later, he learned the plant was bought by Serious Materials, a company that develops and manufactures sustainable, energy-efficient materials including super-insulated windows. Scott got hired back.

These green jobs haven’t arrived in Pennsylvania by accident. The state has made a concerted effort to attract green jobs with innovative policies, like a requirement that utilities get 18 percent of their energy from renewable sources like wind and solar.

Now Pennsylvania--and all 50 states--needs a national commitment to clean energy investment to take it to the next level of green job creation.

The climate bill that passed the House in June and is now before the Senate can achieve that. It will put a price on global warming pollution and direct investment into clean energy alternatives.

Investors will have the incentive they need to produce cost-effective, low-carbon solutions, like super-efficient car batteries and the technology for capturing carbon pollution from coal plants. And with private investment comes jobs.