Congress is considering clean energy legislation that would increase our security by cutting dependence on oil, reduce pollution that contributes to global warming, and create millions of new jobs. Yet this legislation, passed by the House and supported by President Obama, is stalled in the Senate. How can this be in an election year when once again, “It’s the economy, stupid”?
Recently the NRDC Action Fund polled 23 competitive races for the U.S. House of Representatives and found widespread support for passing clean energy legislation. It’s no wonder, given the potential for jobs in these places. (See chart at end of blog for state-by-state job growth potential in states where competitive races occur.)
The potential for new jobs from clean energy legislation is staggering, up to nearly two million over the next decade. This by itself won’t solve the current unemployment problem and won’t happen right away, but it moves in the right direction. And this legislation has the added benefits of cutting the amount of money we send to other countries for foreign oil by two trillion dollars and the amount of dangerous carbon pollution we produce by two billion tons by 2020. It’s a dramatic package altogether.
But don’t take the word of the NRDC Action Fund for it. It’s mainly because of the job creating potential that groups such as American Businesses for Clean Energy, a coalition of over 6,000 businesses including Nike and Alcoa, have endorsed congressional action on clean energy legislation. Labor groups such as the Blue-Green Alliance, which includes the steelworkers and boilermakers unions, have also thrown its support behind legislation.
Numerous other studies from independent and academic sources set out a range of estimates for the job creation potential of clean energy legislation, but all agree it’s significant. A study by the University of California analyzed the job-creating potential of clean energy legislation and found that the U.S. stands to gain 918,000 to 1.9 million jobs by 2020. Another study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that comprehensive clean energy legislation would result in an average increase of 203,000 jobs annually through 2020.
It’s sad but true that another area of job creation from the legislation is the industry-sponsored misinformation business, which has spent millions of dollars to achieve this state of paralysis in the Senate. Using a typical tactic for them, industry trade groups and the conservative think tanks the finance have attacked the clean energy bill by cranking out faux studies with discredited methodologies. Their favorite (though false) tagline for the legislation is “job-killing energy tax.”
We heard the same false expressions from many of the same groups two decades ago when Congress passed the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. They argued that we couldn’t afford clean air, that legislation would cost too much, and that it wouldn’t save enough lives to be worth it. Yet the Clean Air Act has turned out to be one of the most successful and popular pieces of environmental legislation ever, as I noted in testimony before the House Committee on Science and Technology. Even the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the George W. Bush White House said that the benefits of the Clean Air Act the previous ten years had far outpaced the costs, by up to $545 billion. In fact the benefits were twelve times higher than the costs (measured as a mean of the range of estimates), an astonishing ratio. To repeat, it was the Bush administration OMB saying that!
Times are truly tough economically. Oddly, it turns out that some politicians, unlike most Americans, believe the best way to keep their jobs is to not do them. Yet national polling shows persistent support by the American people for passing clean energy legislation. It’s no wonder, such legislation has the potential to create millions of new jobs in America. If it saves the jobs of some politicians who did the right thing by voting for it, that’s ok too.
|State||Competitive Races (with Representatives and their districts)||Job Growth Potential*|
|California||Jerry McNemey (11th)||226,000|
|Colorado||Betsy Markey (4th)||30.000|
|Florida||Alan Boyd (2nd), Alan Grayson (8th), Suzanne Kosmas (24th)||78,000|
|Iowa||Leonard Boswell (3rd)||27,000|
|Illinois||Debbie Halvorsen (11th), Phil Hare (17th)||68,000|
|Maryland||Frank Kratovil (1st)||71,000|
|Michigan||Mark Schauer (7th)||37,000|
|New Hampshire||Carol Shea-Porter (1st)||7,000|
|New Mexico||Harry Teague (2nd)||15,000|
|Nevada||Dina Titus (3rd)||17,000|
|New York||John Hall (19th)||126,000|
|Ohio||Steve Driehaus (1st), Mary Jo Kilroy (15th), John Boccieri (16th), Zack Space (18th)||61,000|
|Pennsylvania||Partrick Murphy (8th), Paul Kanjorski (11th)||78,000|
|South Carolina||John Spratt (5th)||36,000|
|Virginia||Tom Perriello (5th)||50,000|
|Wisconsin||Steve Kagan (8th)||28,000|
*Job growth potential was taken from the high-end estimate from the University of California study.