The Race for Clean Energy Jobs

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  President Obama described the gains being made:

“One year later, it is largely thanks to the Recovery Act that a second depression is no longer a possibility. It’s one of the main reasons the economy has gone from shrinking by six percent to growing at about six percent. And this morning we learned that manufacturing production posted a strong gain. So far, the Recovery Act is responsible for the jobs of about two million Americans who would otherwise be unemployed.”

We hear a lot of talk about “green energy” jobs under the stimulus, but that’s only part of the clean-energy story when it comes to America’s financial recovery.

There’s no doubt that you can see the impact of the clean-energy provision of the stimulus in headlines across America: 

But what is more subtle – and, as a result, gets  a lot less attention – is the clean energy investment and jobs boom that likely will have an even more profound long-term impact on our nation:

And this is just an early taste of the bright future clean energy portends, since as the Christian Science Monitor reports, there's more spending on the way:

Over the next two years, the $90 billion spent on clean energy is expected to create 720,000 job-years of employment. In addition to jobs, some 16,000 megawatts of wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable energy capacity propelled by the stimulus will power about 4 to 5 million homes.

What may be nearly the perfect way to capture what is going on today is captured in the “Race for American Jobs - Clean Energy Leadership”:

The Race for American Jobs - Clean Energy Leadership is a nationwide virtual campaign sponsored by We Can Lead to drive home the enormous economic benefits of comprehensive climate and energy legislation. Forward-thinking business leaders are holding a series of events from coast to coast to make the case that strong climate and energy policies will create American jobs, promote innovation and technology, boost national security and energy independence, and reduce pollution.

The “race” metaphor is perfect.  We are racing to get out of a deep recession.  We are racing to create the millions of urgently needed new jobs here in American.  We are even racing with other nations to ensure that we are the world leader in clean energy.  

And what is the one way we can trip ourselves up in this clean-energy jobs race?

By letting Washington fail to act this year on the clean energy and climate change legislation that we need.

Because to take full advantage of the potential for clean energy to power our economy, we need to make permanent changes in how our energy system works. As the Christian Science Monitor story noted:

What’s needed is a “natural demand” for clean-energy, or a “legislative demand.” And yet, a cap-and-trade climate bill that would do just that, by putting a price on carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, is stalled in Congress.

Kevin Book, managing partner with energy research and consulting firm ClearView Partners, made it plain: in order to make sure that US clean-energy manufacturers can out-compete global competitors,

We have to have a price on carbon.