Green jobs were dead last on Common Current’s Top Ten Sustainability Stories of 2008, but it is certainly not least in its potential to give the economy the boost it so desperately needs.
The United States Conference of Mayors released a study in October that detailed the economic advantages of a “green economy.” The advantages listed include “investments in new technologies, greater productivity, improvements in the US balance of trade, increased real disposable income across the nation…lower costs of doing business, and reduced household energy expenditures.” The advantages result in job and income growth.
Investing in renewable energy, alternative fuels, and clean technology is “critical to our competitiveness in the global economy, to our living standards, indeed, to our future,” according to the study.
A “new energy economy” can “contribute mightily to a resurgence of the American middle class,” according to a joint study by the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the Workforce Alliance, and the Apollo Alliance. The study considers the new energy economy to include retrofitting, renewable energy, and biofuel production.
Investing $1 million in retrofitting creates eight to eleven jobs, but if indirect economic effects are included the numbers increase. The U.S. wind industry increased 45 percent a year.
Renewable energy created 8.5 million new jobs, almost $970 billion of revenue, over $100 billion in industry profits, and $150 billion in tax revenues for federal, state, and local governments, according to a 2007 study by the American Solar Energy Society. Renewable energy and energy efficiency sales “outpaced the combined sales of Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobil, and General Motors in 2006.
Government investment needed
A big government investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and alternative fuels would help the economy by creating jobs and increasing tax revenues. President-elect Barack Obama has said he plans to invest $150 billion in all three areas.
“The challenge is to make a green stimulus actually green,” said Dan Becker, consultant with the Safe Climate Campaign. “The more road building you have the blacker it gets.”
“Clean energy is going to be a foundation for rebuilding the American economy,” said Bracken Hendricks, an adviser to Obama’s transitional team.
“Almost any major infrastructure project is going to be done in the greenest way possible,” said Alice Rivlin, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve. “There will be spending for quick-starting infrastructure as well as for larger, better-thought-out programs over several years.”
Earlier this month U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt released a statement supporting Obama’s $150 investment plan. “There is no greater priority for our country right now than to stimulate the economy and to create new jobs through boosting public investments in infrastructure and in new clean energy projects,” said Delahunt.
“I support President-Elect Obama’s initiatives to boost federal support for solar, wind and marine renewable energy projects. These are the industries of the future and will create millions of new jobs in our country and thousands here in Massachusetts.”
A study by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst stated that investing $100 billion in a “clean energy initiative” would create almost four times the amount of jobs than spending the same amount in the oil industry. It would reduce the unemployment rate from its current 5.7 percent to 4.4 percent.