Moving The Clean Energy Jobs Needle Forward

How do you create good paying American jobs, solve the climate crisis, and renew America’s leadership in science and innovation?

A bill that Colorado Senator Michael Bennet introduced recently could help accomplish all three of these goals.

This bill, titled the “Clean Energy Race to the Top” Act, would establish a $5 billion competitive grant program for states and local governments that enact policies to move the clean energy economy forward.

Here is how it works: under the bill, state and local governments can apply for competitive grants to develop and implement clean energy and carbon reduction measures. Some ideas for possible proposals include renewable electricity standards, regional or statewide climate action plans, increasing the percentage of energy efficient public buildings, participation in a regional greenhouse gas reduction program, or tax incentives for the manufacture or installation of clean energy components or energy efficiency upgrades.

wind power operation and mainenance costs

Siemens service engineers working on wind turbine at Sweden’s Lillgrund offshore wind farm (image via Siemens

Five billion dollars, or about one-tenth of one percent of federal spending, may not sound like much, but the effects would be truly significant.

Take, for example, job creation. This bill will create important new clean energy markets, which in turn will create new, American jobs. In a time when our industrial and manufacturing sectors are fading in the face of global competition, clean energy investments will help rebuild these important sectors. In fact, roughly 26 percent of all “clean economy” jobs are in manufacturing establishments (PDF), compared to nine percent in the economy overall.

Meanwhile, because we have no national energy policy, we have to look to the states and our local businesses and governments to continue to lead the way on climate and energy. Already, 28 states and Washington, DC have renewable electricity standards. These standards require electric utilities to gradually increase the amount of clean, renewable energy sources – such as wind, solar, and bioenergy – in their power supplies. While state leadership has already begun stimulating these new clean energy markets, this bill will build upon the current progress.

Finally, the U.S. is losing in the global clean energy economy battle, and this bill will help us catch up to the rest of the world. The global market for clean energy is estimated to be worth between $1.7 to $2.3 trillion over the next decade. China is now the global leader in wind and solar. India continues to emerge as a premier clean energy market, growing investments to $10.2 billion in 2011, a 54 percent increase.Countries like Germany, South Korea, and Japan have quickly increased their investment in clean energy innovation since 2009 in an effort to become global leaders in the industry. But stagnant U.S. research budgets and looming budget cuts are sending us to the dark ages. They are providing an opening for countries to capture the global clean energy innovation advantage that America is letting slip out of reach.

With looming budget negotiations in DC and the effects of climate disruption becoming increasingly apparent around the country, this bill is a necessary one. We are missing out on our fair share of the clean energy economy, but with leadership from Congress and smart renewable energy investments, we can ensure our cities and states lead the way in clean energy.

sierra-clubEditor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Sierra Club. Author credit goes to Radha Adhar.

The Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. We are working to protect our communities and the planet.

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