Clean Energy Jobs Debate Intensifies

The biggest four-letter word of the 2012 US Presidential election will probably be this one – jobs.

Republicans will use a US unemployment rate that seems stuck around 8% to discredit President Obama’s record on job creation. The White House says its clean energy stimulus funds created 224,500 jobs. An independent study by the Brookings Institute, the Breakthrough Institute and the World Resources Institute estimates that 70,000 jobs were added to clean technology industries from 2007-2010.

Meanwhile, the incumbent will use candidate Mitt Romney’s plans to discontinue clean energy incentives, particularly the wind production tax credit, to undercut his rival’s argument that a Romney White House would be better for US job creation.

One thing is certain, the US has a lot to lose in terms of green jobs if Congress keeps slashing clean energy programs.

Let’s look at this first from the positive point of view: Up to 37,409 jobs could be created from more than 70 US clean energy projects announced in the second quarter alone, according to the latest Clean Energy Jobs Roundup from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).

But the same number of jobs could be erased if the wind tax credit isn’t extended, estimates the American Wind Energy Association. Key wind states such as Iowa and Illinois are particularly vulnerable.

Consider these remarks made by President Obama on the campaign trail in Iowa:

“America generates more than twice as much electricity from wind than when I took office. That’s right. The wind industry supports about 7,000 jobs right here in Iowa. Without these wind energy tax credits, those jobs are at risk, 37,000 jobs across the country would be at risk. So my attitude is let’s stop giving taxpayer subsidies to oil companies that don’t need them, and let’s invest in clean energy that will put people back to work right here in Iowa. That’s a choice in this election.”

Which states will care the most about this issue? The top 10 clean energy job states in the second quarter, reports E2:

  • California (16 projects, 20,879 possible jobs)
  • Florida (3 projects, 7,375 possible jobs)
  • New York (3 projects, 1,408 possible jobs)
  • Michigan (9 projects, 1,319 possible jobs)
  • Colorado (2 projects, with 1,100 possible jobs)
  • Ohio (4 projects, 712 possible jobs)
  • New Jersey (2 projects, 600 possible jobs)
  • Illinois (4 projects, 542 possible jobs)
  • Nebraska (1 projects, 500 possible jobs)
  • Mississippi (1 project, 426 possible jobs)

Other E2 findings: 

  • 30 states announced clean energy projects in Q2, with one-third in Midwest states, including Michigan, Ohio and Illinois
  • Clean energy projects cross party lines, with 35 clean energy projects in Democratic districts and 31 in Republican districts 
  • Public transportation (7,285 new jobs), electric vehicle manufacturing (2,622) and power generation projects (3,987) created the most clean energy job potential

Massachusetts, Clean Energy Jobs Battleground?

Even though Massachusetts didn’t show up on E2’s second-quarter report, that state also has a stake in the argument — particularly given Romney’s political past as governor.

The clean energy sector grew 11.2% and now employs 71,523 people across the state, reports the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). Those jobs increase construction, manufacturing and research related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative transportation and carbon management. (Visit this link for the complete report.)

"I have said from the beginning of this Administration that, if we get clean energy right, the world will be our customer. This past year’s 11.2 percent increase in clean energy jobs means that we are getting it right and the world knows it,” says Governor Deval Patrick. “Investing in our nation-leading clean energy agenda is the right thing to do for our environment, our energy independence, our public health and our economic vitality. We owe it to our future to keep this momentum going strong.”

For E2’s second quarter outlook on clean energy jobs:

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