The Senate Stimulus Package: Green Jobs Are Good Jobs

For several months, President Obama has been telling Americans that green energy investment is a path to economic recovery. In the last several days, Washington got the message loud and clear. Not only did the city play host to 2,000 labor, business, and environmental leaders at the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference, but the Senate passed its version of the economic stimulus package--a plan that puts clean energy solutions at its core.

The timing of the two events is fitting. The conference, sponsored by NRDC and our partners at the Blue Green Alliance and the Apollo Alliance, represents the concrete, on-the-ground job creation and economic growth that will expand as a result of the stimulus package.

That's what the economists tell us. A recent green jobs study by the Political Economy Research Institute of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that a two-year, $100 billion green investment program would create 2 million green jobs for workers in the United States. These solutions create 3 times as many good jobs--those paying at least $16 an hour--as the oil industry.

And according to analysis using the U.S. Department of Commerce's own data, investments in energy efficiency and renewables create more jobs per dollar invested than tax cuts, military spending, or oil and natural gas investments.

Some labor and business leaders participating in the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference traveled to Capitol Hill last Wednesday to educate lawmakers about the green economy. It looks like they succeeded. The Senate stimulus package calls for billions of dollars of investment in renewable energy, public transit, energy efficiency, and weatherizing people's homes so household utility bills go down for years to come. In fact investments in clean projects like energy efficiency save consumers and taxpayers so much money they more than pay for themselves over the life of the project. 

Of course, there are some things I would like to see change in the stimulus package when the House and Senate go to conference to reconcile their versions of the bill.

For instance, the Senate Appropriations Committee inserted an additional $50 billion in loan guarantees for nuclear power and liquid coal. Setting aside the list of environmental and public health problems with both of these energy sources, neither industry will provide immediate economic stimulus. Even under the best-case scenarios for the industry, no new nuclear reactors will even be licensed for at least three years and they will take another six or more years to build.  Similarly, there are very few liquid coal facilities that can go forward today.

On top of that, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the likelihood of default for loans made to nuclear reactor developers to be "well above 50 percent." Bad loans are the last thing Americans taxpayers need right now.

Congress should cut that risky proposition, and instead invest in programs with the highest returns: efficiency, water and waste water infrastructure, and mass transit. An analysis by Transportation for America found over $5 billion in new transit construction projects that could be ready to go in 120 days.

That is the kind of rapid stimulus we need right now. Investment in public transit and clean energy yields immediate economic growth, AND it brings America long-term dividends in good-paying jobs, consumer savings on transportation and heating bills, and cleaner, safer air to breathe.