At a time when rates of joblessness continue to rise in America, a new study upholds the promise of a major jobs boost from a green economy.
The study, released this week by the non-profit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and Management Information Services (MIS), found that an aggressive and immediate build out of renewable energy and energy efficiency (EE&RE) would net at least 4.5 million new jobs by 2030 (meaning, the figure accounts for the number of jobs that could be lost in the transition to a clean energy economy).
Many of these jobs "could not easily be outsourced," the authors said.
The study arrived at the same time that climate change legislation continued its march through the U.S. Congress. Opponents of the bill claim that its clean energy policies could cost the U.S. trillions of dollars and many millions of jobs over the next several decades. The AES/MIS research refutes both these claims.
The groups' latest study builds on earlier work. In early 2009, ASES and MIS released a report concluding that an aggressive scale up of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies could generate some $4.3 trillion in revenue in the United States by 2030. The analysis was based on an analysis of six technologies: energy efficiency, concentrating solar power, solar photovoltaics, wind power, biomass power, biofuels and geothermal power.
An aggressive U.S. commitment to programs that support these six solutions would drive the creation of 37 million jobs in total (not net) in two decades, the research found.
"These 37 million jobs would represent nearly one out of every five jobs in 2030."
And the jobs would be good ones:
"The occupational data in the ASES/MISI study demonstrate that growing jobs in EE&RE will create a variety of jobs that command higher than average pay, many of which take advantage of U.S. manufacturing capabilities that have been languishing in recent years."
On top of that, the employment growth would be everywhere — "every corner of the country." Two other new analyses affirm this conclusion.
A report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, entitled Energy Self-Reliant States, found that 31 states could serve all their electricity needs with in-state renewable power, and that every state could reach its renewable mandate with clean resources currently available at home. If states move on this, the green jobs impact nationwide would be huge.
Further, in its first look at the state of clean-tech jobs in the U.S., Clean Edge found that green jobs are cropping up all over America. The "clean-tech economy is a highly dispersed phenomenon, with no single place, industry, or professional demographic controlling the sector," said Ron Pernick, managing director of Clean Edge.
According to ASES and MIS, the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries have been driving significant economic growth across the U.S. for some time. In 2007, the sectors generated more than 9 million jobs, $1,045 billion in revenue and nearly $160 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues.
"To put this in perspective, EE&RE sales outpaced the combined sales of the three largest U.S. corporations. Total sales for Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil and General Motors in 2007 were $905 billion," the authors said.
Energy efficiency produces the biggest bang for the taxpayer's buck.
This week's ASE/MIS study predicts that under its 4.5 million jobs scenario, efficiency would create "many more" net jobs than renewable energy every year, although the percentage would decline over time from 80 percent in 2020 to 74 percent in 2030.
Among the renewable energy technologies, photovoltaics would generate the most net jobs in 2030, followed by biofuels, biomass power, concentrating solar, geothermal power and wind.
Of course, none of these gains will come without a massive up-front investment.
Contrary to what detractors claim, AES and MIS have found that the net effect of deploying new energy technologies "would be overwhelmingly positive for the U.S. economy." One of the main reasons is that efficiency saves more money than renewables cost. A dollar of clean energy industry output accounts for more jobs that conventional electricity output. But time is of the essence:
"If we fail to invest in EE&RE, the United States runs the risk of losing ground to EE&RE programs and industries located in other nations," the authors said.
President Obama talked about those jobs in a speech to engineers at MIT this afternoon and about the cash infusion his administration already started with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provided $16.8 billion for EE&RE. He see clean energy as the next frontier of innovation and a "peaceful competition" developing worldwide to master it.
"The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that, and I want America to be that nation," the president said.
To get there, he urged Congress to take a cue from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, put their nation before their politics, and work together to pass a climate and energy bill that "will finally make renewable energy profitable energy in America."
"Everybody in America should have a stake in legislation that can transform our energy system into one that's far more efficient, far cleaner and provides energy independence for America," the president said.