On a hot, 93 degree Tuesday afternoon at Georgetown University in Washington DC, President Barack Obama unveiled the nation’s first ever clear strategy for combating climate change. Encouraging his audience to remove their suit jackets as he removed his own and occasionally wiping sweat from his brown, he presented plans for responding to the threat of a warming planet.
Obama tried to head his critics off at the pass, preemptively addressing the most common counter-argument: that action on climate change would be a disaster for the economy.
“Now, what you’ll hear from the special interests and their allies in Congress is that this will kill jobs and crush the economy, and basically end American free enterprise as we know it. And the reason I know you’ll hear those things is because that’s what they said every time America sets clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health. And every time, they’ve been wrong.“
As if on cue, the Heartland Institute immediately did just that. James M. Taylor, J.D., Senior Fellow for Environment Policy at the Heartland Institute quickly fires off his response, “The restrictions are economically punishing because they will drive up energy prices throughout the U.S. economy, which will stifle job creation and additionally drive existing businesses and jobs overseas.”
As an electricity consumer in Michigan I’d personally like to put Mr. Taylor’s mind at ease. In Michigan I pay about 14 cents per kilowatt hour from an electricity generation mix made up of about 60 percent coal, 25 percent nuclear and just 6 percent wind. Meanwhile my friend in Lombard, IL pays 4.64 cents per kilowatt hour from a mix of 100 percent renewable energy through an energy aggregation option. Talk about job killer. I’m paying over three times more for coal. And it’s not doing this struggling industrial-belt state any favors.
In practice, the renewable energy apocalypse is overstated and major businesses and manufacturers agree.
Obama went on to talk about actual businesses standing up to demand strong action on climate change.
…recently, more than 500 businesses, including giants like GM and Nike, issued a Climate Declaration, calling action on climate change “one of the great economic opportunities of the 21st century.” Walmart is working to cut its carbon pollution by 20 percent and transition completely to renewable energy. Walmart deserves a cheer for that. But think about it. Would the biggest company, the biggest retailer in America — would they really do that if it weren’t good for business, if it weren’t good for their shareholders?
In a previous Triple Pundit article one such signatory of the Climate Declaration, IKEA, was reported to have plans to be a net producer of renewable energy by 2020. Objectively, renewable energy is good for the bottom line. So says IKEA, GM, Nike, Walmart, and hundreds of other major companies in the US and worldwide.
I can also attest to the job creation potential of the renewable energy industry. Here in Michigan we have seen a decade of job losses as manufacturing collapsed. Nearly a million jobs lost and double digit unemployment. One of the new industries in Michigan, diversifying the economy out of a near complete dependence on the auto industry, is renewable energy.
Just down the street from my home is Kaydon Bearings, where engineers design bearings for the wind power industry. Twenty miles South is Energetx, a wind turbine blade manufacturing industry. Last year Energetx manufactured a set of massive wind turbine blade molds which were shipped out of Muskegon Michigan’s deep water port to Europe; successfully becoming the first international export to leave Muskegon’s deep water port in nearly a decade, putting us back on the radar as exporters. Burke E. Porter Machine in West Michigan makes wind turbine electronics components. Dokka Fasteners in East Michigan makes massive bolts for wind turbines and 40 percent of their employees were previously out-of-work auto manufacturers. Great Lakes Heavy Haul, Loadlifter Solutions, crane operators, steel workers, electrical workers…
…nobody is going to come into my town and tell me with a straight face that the renewable energy industry doesn’t create jobs and infuse investment info faltering economies. As a resident of an industrial town where I can smell the foundries and shake the calloused hands of factory workers, I can attest…
…It does. It does create jobs. A move toward renewable energy creates real innovation for real businesses to put real people into real work making real money to put real food on real tables.
Obama went on to say:
I am convinced this is the fight America can, and will, lead in the 21st century. And I’m convinced this is a fight that America must lead. But it will require all of us to do our part. We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and we’ll need farmers to grow new fuels. We’ll need engineers to devise new technologies, and we’ll need businesses to make and sell those technologies. We’ll need workers to operate assembly lines that hum with high-tech, zero-carbon components, but we’ll also need builders to hammer into place the foundations for a new clean energy era.
The President laid out an ambitious plan, overall, well received by environmental groups. Marry Anne Hitt, the National Sierra Club Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign tweeted:
— Mary Anne Hitt (@maryannehitt) June 25, 2013
For an excellent summary of the key points of Obama’s plan, check out this Grist article.
What business opportunities does climate change provide in your community?