Thursday, April 30, 2009


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The Reality Of Green Jobs

"We have to lay a new foundation for growth," President Barack Obama told the nation yesterday, "a foundation that will strengthen our economy and help us compete in the 21st century." In his first 100 days, Obama has made "spending to promote renewable energy technologies that will generate jobs and an effort to shift the nation to a low-carbon economy" key priorities. Congress is responding to his call, drafting the American Clean Energy and Security Act to establish a green economy through national standards for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and global warming pollution. John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, PA, a failing steel town, told Congress last week that his town needs a change from the pollution-based status quo. Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr warned Congress in January that "of the top 30 companies in solar, wind, and advanced battery technologies in the world today, only six of them are U.S. firms." But conservative politicians and the fossil-fuel industry are questioning the green recovery. "Investing taxpayers' money in developing green jobs as an economic and environmental panacea," a paper from the fossil-fuel think tank Institute for Energy Research has argued, "are likely, like a Ponzi scheme, to result in empty bank accounts." Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) claimed on the Senate floor that "271,000 oil and gas jobs would be destroyed annually by the administration's proposed new taxes and fees on energy." "We must avoid green jobs proposals that result in killing millions of existing jobs to pay for new green jobs, require expensive taxpayer subsidies, or pay low wages," argued Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) on Monday.

GREEN JOBS ARE REAL: The only "Ponzi scheme" when it comes to energy policy is continuing a debt-and-depletion fossil fuel economy. Over the last decade, Americans have witnessed what the United States looks like without clean energy policies: Electricity and gasoline prices skyrocketed, fossil-fuel industries profited, pollution rose, and the economy veered from bubble to near bust. A global economy dependent on non-renewable resources, by definition, cannot be sustained indefinitely -- even if pollution were not a concern. "Green jobs are not so much created as they are bought with massive taxpayers subsidies," argued Bond. History does not support Bond's argument. According to a University of California report, "California's energy-efficiency policies created nearly 1.5 million jobs from 1977 to 2007," while keeping per-capita electricity demand 40 percent below the national average. Hank Ryan, chair of the California Small Business Association, explained that energy regulations have given "California small businesses a competitive edge over their counterparts in other states because while they're wasting money on inefficiency, we're spending it on employees, building a better product, advertising, and capital improvements." In reality, the Center for American Progress writes, "most green jobs are familiar jobs, repurposed and expanded through new investments in a low-carbon economy." For instance, constructing wind farms "creates demand for steel workers and long-haul freight shipping. Energy-efficiency retrofits for buildings require roofers and insulators." Green jobs, in short, are the "person-hours" involved in realizing the clean-energy transformation. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch responded to Bond, "Green jobs in Missouri? We'll take 'em."

GREEN JOBS DON'T KILL OTHER JOBS: A popular conservative myth is that energy standards, limits on pollution, and public investment in clean energy will destroy other jobs. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Fox News have cast doubt on a green economic recovery by "touting a Spanish study" from a libertarian think tank, Fundacion Juan de Mariana, showing that "for every green job created [in Spain], 2.2 jobs are lost." The Spanish study, which examines the effect of Spain's support for its renewable industry since 2000, has also been touted by industry front groups, conservative blogs, and right-wing think tanks. The report relies on bad numbers, grossly underestimating that Spain's renewable program created only 50,000 jobs, when other estimates are 188,000. indeed, the study is claiming that "government spending on renewable energy is less than half as efficient at job creation as private-sector spending," the Wall Street Journal's Keith Johnson explains. Critics neglect to say that "Spain's support for renewable energy came out of existing tax revenues," so "it's hard to see how it could have edged out private-sector spending, especially when the Socialist government there has reduced corporate income-tax rates, most recently this past January." The reality is that investment in renewable energy sectors creates millions more jobs than does investment in traditional energy sectors, because investment can flow into employing people instead of extracting fuel to burn. The Apollo Alliance reports that "renewable energy creates more jobs than coal: the same investment creates 50% more jobs in wind and in solar than in coal. Energy efficiency is far more labor intensive than generation, creating 21.5 jobs for every $1 million invested, compared to 11.5 jobs for new natural gas generation." According to a Greenpeace International and European Renewable Energy Council study, building a green economy that would cut United States greenhouse emissions by 45% by 2030 would create a net 7.8 million jobs versus business as usual.

GREEN JOBS ARE GOOD JOBS: Bond argued that "passing climate-change legislation to pay for new green jobs" will mean that "good-paying manufacturing jobs are driven away by the burden of high energy taxes and replaced with fewer, lower-paying green jobs." The reality is that the decline of American manufacturing and the loss of good-paying jobs for many Americans have happened because there hasn't been an effort to clean up the economy. "We can choose to transition to a clean energy economy that secures our energy supply and combats climate change or we can continue down the same old path of uncertainty and insecurity that we’re currently in," said Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), now the Secretary of Labor, at the 2008 National Clean Energy Summit. "Current economic conditions, particularly for under-served, under-represented minority communities underscore the need to transition to clean energy technology." The government and unions should play a role in ensuring that economic rebirth comes with not just regulations for pollution but also standards for jobs. "We can build a green economy Dr. King would be proud of," Green For All founder Van Jones testified before Congress in January. "We have an opportunity to connect the people who most need work with the work that most needs to be done, and fight pollution and poverty at the same time, and be one country about it." Van Jones, now the White House green jobs adviser, recently told reporters, "The president doesn't want a bunch of solar sweatshops." In 2007, Solis and Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) wrote the Green Jobs Act to authorize "quality job training programs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency fields." Building a green economy takes a trillion-dollar shift in resources from capital-intensive energy to labor-intensive energy -- instead of McMansions heated by giant power plants financed by Bank of America, it is homes greened by insulators and solar panel installers, linked on a smart grid.


JUSTICE -- HOUSE PASSES HATE CRIMES BILL PROTECTING GAY MEN AND WOMEN: Yesterday, the House passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act. The bill, which was opposed by most Republicans, would "permit greater federal involvement in investigating hate crimes and expand the federal definition of such crimes to include those motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability." Speaking out against the bill Tuesday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) called it the "very definition of tyranny," while Rep. Greshman Barret (R-SC) said "it would inhibit religious freedom in our society." Their distress, however, is misplaced. A federal hate crimes law has been in place since 1968, and the Matthew Shepard Act simply adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the enumerated protected groups. Moreover, this exact measure passed both chambers in 2007, but was stripped from a larger bill after President Bush promised to veto it. As the bill will moves on to the Senate, President Obama is urging lawmakers "to work with my administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action."

RADICAL RIGHT -- OBAMA APPEALS TO TEA PARTY PROTESTERS, SAYING 'LET'S NOT PLAY GAMES': President Obama spent part of the 100th day of his presidency yesterday in Arnold, MO where he hosted a town hall meeting with local residents. During the event, Obama recognized criticism he's been receiving from the far right. "I know you have been hearing all these arguments about, 'Oh, Obama's just spending crazy, look at these huge trillion dollar deficits, blah, blah, blah.'" Obama then noted that the real fiscal problem facing the United States is the skyrocketing costs of Medicare and Medicaid -- not the Recovery Act or bank bailouts, which he said are "one-time charges." "If we aren't careful, health care will consume so much of our budget that ultimately we won't be able to do anything else," he warned. Obama then mocked the right wing's tea party protests for their misplaced anger and, indirectly, Fox News for promoting them. "[T]hose of you who are watching certain news channels, on which I'm not very popular, and you see folks waving tea bags around, let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation. ... [L]et's not play games," Obama said. Referring to the tea baggers' desire for the government to play less of a role in economic recovery, Obama said, "We tried that formula for eight years. It did not work, and I don't intend to go back to it."

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