Senate Democrats

The Cost of Inaction: Failing to Address Climate Change Stifles Green Job Creation

“I can say that in Britain our economy since 1990 has grown by about 40 percent, and our emissions have decreased by 14 percent. So to argue that you destroy your economy by reducing emissions is blatantly incorrect.”

-Sir DavidKing, Britain’s Chief Scientific Advisor 2000-2007, February 17, 2006.

Throughout its tenure, the Bush Administration has passed up opportunities to promote economic growth by investing in green jobs and renewable energy. This inaction, in together with other failed Bush Republican economic policies, contributed to the loss of more than 107,000 construction and manufacturing jobs in April.[1] Despite the dismal Bush record, the opportunity still exists to invest in green technologies that would generate manufacturing, construction and installation jobs and to protect against fossil fuel supply disruptions and price fluctuations. American leadership on climate change could play a vital role in stimulating green job creation while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Green Jobs

Current employment. Gross revenues for the renewable energy industry in 2006 totaled nearly $40 billion, and renewable energy sources were responsible for more than 450,000 direct and indirect jobs.[2] Investments in clean energy and energy efficiency contribute directly to energy diversification and security, and help spur domestic job growth, rather than off-shore job migration. Studies have shown that, across a broad range of scenarios, renewable energy sources generate more jobs than fossil fuel-based sources per unit of energy delivered. These green jobs are concentrated primarily in manufacturing, construction and installation.[3]

Large growth potential. According to the Apollo Alliance, a labor-environmental partnership, investing $30 billion per year over 10 years would create 3.3 million jobs and boost the nation’s GDP by $1.4 trillion.[4]The Apollo Alliance estimates that dollars invested in clean energy create more jobs than those invested in traditional energy sources because renewable energy is more labor intensive.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has found that if the nation enacted a 20 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020, 185,000 new jobs could be created.In addition, $66.7 billion could be generated in new capital investment, $25.6 billion could be created in income to farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners, and $2 billion could be generated in new local tax revenues.[5] According to the report, “a renewable electricity standard would benefit the U.S. economy in other significant ways. For example, dollars invested in clean energy go toward high-quality jobs in manufacturing and construction, as well as jobs in operations, maintenance, finance, sales, shipping, and other industries. Jobs are also created when these workers spend their income on goods and services and when consumer energy bill savings are spent in the local economy.”

Supported by labor. Labor leaders are supporting renewable energy investments because of its employment potential, including jobs in technical and building trades.According to United Steelworkers President Leo Girard, “Investments in environmentally friendly alternative energy…can create a new surge of quality job growth while significantly reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”[6] A green economy will not only keep the environment clean, but provide high-paying manufacturing jobs – the kinds of jobs that have been leaving the United States in recent decades. For example, more factories will be needed to manufacture wind turbines, solar panels and geothermal turbines, and more stringent efficiency standards means that more experts in sealing and insulating will be needed.

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Industries

Solar. Photovoltaic (PV) panels generate 15.2 manufacturing jobs per megawatt installed and 7.1 construction and installation jobs per megawatt-more jobs in both categories than any other renewable energy source. Producing electricity from PV provides jobs to roofers, electricians, sheet metal workers, and other skilled laborers. Approximately 80 percent of the jobs in PV come from manufacturing and assembly. The remaining jobs come mostly from installing the PV panels. Many component parts must be manufactured to build solar PV systems, including metals, glass, raw silicon, batteries, wiring, and roof mounting structures to hold the solar panels in place. The solar panels must also be assembled prior to installation. Workers are needed to assemble the solar cells, to prepare them for installation, and connect them to the electrical grid. Finally, maintenance workers are needed to provide routine maintenance and repairs to the panels.[7]

Wind. Experts have estimated that 3,500 manufacturing jobs are created for every 1,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power installed. In 2007, 5,244 MW of new wind power was built in the United States resulting in an investment of over $9 billion into the our economy.[8] Wind power requires blade, turbine and gearbox manufacturing, and tower and turbine installation. Tower operators and maintenance workers are needed to operate the turbines, clean the turbine blades, and perform repair work. Finally, workers are needed to maintain the transmission lines connecting the turbines to the power grid.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report in 2004 which found that: “A farmer who leases land for a wind project can expect to receive $2,000 to $5,000 per turbine per year in lease payments. In addition, large wind power projects in some of the nation’s poorest rural counties have added much needed tax revenues and employment opportunities.”

Geothermal. The geothermal industry supplied approximately 4,583 jobs in 2004, or about 1.7 jobs per MW-significantly more jobs than coal or natural gas plants provide for the same amount of power. An Energy Information Agency projection of growth for the geothermal industry in the United States predicted that 2,455 MW of new geothermal power would be built by 2026. This would result in more than 8,500 full-time jobs. Construction of geothermal plants typically takes from about 17 to 33 months and generates 3.1 person-years of work per megawatt. For example, a 50 megawatt plant may require up to 33 months of construction and employ up to 160 workers.[9]

Biofuels. Producing biofuels entails farming feedstock, constructing biofuel facilities, producing fuel in the facilities, and distribution of the final product. The number of construction jobs associated with an average-sized ethanol or biodiesel plant ranges from 75 to 200, for a period of 12 to 18 months, though newer plants may create up to 400 construction jobs. The Apollo Alliance and the Urban Habitat Institute have reported that “an average ethanol plant produces about 40 million gallons of ethanol a year and employs around 35 people in the following types of jobs: general manager, plant manager, maintenance supervisor, plant operators, purchasing manager, lab manager and technicians, craftsmen, laborers, and instrument technicians. Biodiesel plants employ fewer people, around 28 workers for an average plant making 30 million gallons per year.”

In 2007, an average 100 million gallon per year ethanol biorefinery helped create 2,400 new jobs, and added $367 million to the local gross domestic product. The increased economic activity supported the creation of 238,541 jobs, including 46,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector.[10]

Green buildings. In addition to the construction jobs that would be created, manufacturing jobs are needed to produce energy efficiency components and renewable energy systems that go into newly constructed energy-efficient buildings. Various energy efficiency and low-waste systems must be produced, including compact fluorescent lights, waterless urinals, water filtration systems, permeable concrete, insulation, flooring, and low-chemical paints and carpets. Manufacturing jobs would also be needed to produce other products as well: solar PV panels, solar hot water heaters, small wind turbines, and geothermal heat pumps.

Energy efficiency retrofits. Retrofit projects involve making an existing building more energy efficient. This can be accomplished by upgrading or replacing lights, heating and cooling systems, insulation, windows, and other components so that a building will use less energy. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning work requires many different types of workers, including pipefitters, sheetmetal workers, technicians, engineers, and electricians.

The weatherization industry employs workers to retrofit homes and businesses in order to lower heating and cooling bills. The Department of Energy has estimated that for every $1 million invested in weatherization programs in low-income communities, 52 jobs are created in those communities. Weatherization projects involve jobs installing insulation, improving furnace systems, reducing air flow through buildings, repairing chimneys, installing control devices on water heaters and other appliances, reducing hot water flows in showers, and improving lighting systems.

Sources




[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Employment Situation Survey,” May 2, 2008.

[2] American Solar Energy Society, “Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Economic Drivers for the 21st Century,” 2007.

[3] Kammen, D. et al., “Putting Renewables to Work: How Many Jobs Can the Clean Energy Industry Generate?” 2004.

[4] Apollo Alliance, “New Energy for America,” January 2004.

[5] Union of Concerned Scientists, “Cashing in on Clean Energy,” 2007.

[6] Sierra Club Press Release, November 2, 2006.

[7] Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat, “Community Jobs in the Green Economy,” 2007.

[8] American Wind Energy Association Press Release, January 17, 2008.

[9] Geothermal Energy Association, “Geothermal Industry Employment: Survey Results & Analysis,” September 2005.

[10] Renewable Fuels Association, “Changing the Climate,” 2008.

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