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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs: Progressives Championing American Innovation and Investment in the Green Economy

The US Senate’s failure last year to pass comprehensive clean energy reform means that state legislation is our only chance to create sustainable, green jobs that remain in the United States.  In fact, states have historically taken the primary role to advance green energy legislation in this country; California enacted clean car legislation that was later introduced at the federal level, and back in 1981 Iowa introduced the first renewable portfolio standard, which is likely to gain bi-partisan support when it is introduced in this year’s Congressional session. It is thanks to states’ pioneering efforts that we have a robust green energy economy that is producing a larger number of jobs than other sectors. Even conservatives have jumped at the idea of supporting a new green economy, understanding that clean energy investment is a job creator that is durable and local. Progressives have a unique opportunity to be the champions of green energy: putting hard-working Americans back to work, declaring our independence from foreign oil, giving incentives to entrepreneurs to develop clean and safe forms of energy, improving the health of our families, and creating a new era of American innovation, manufacturing, and leadership.

For the 2011 legislative session, progressive state legislators can incentivize the demand for clean energy investment and the creation of green jobs through innovative, varied, and comprehensive green energy policies. Four overarching policies will effectively reach this goal:

  • Workforce Development: Jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what we need and that is what can create through green energy legislation.  Ironically, those states that have the financial infrastructure to create green jobs maintain that the workforce is not adequately prepared. Legislation can be created to support career-technical education and pre-apprenticeship courses that align with employers’ needs. More importantly, legislation should ensure that a trained workforce earns competitive wages, fosters new skills, and builds a career ladder. Standard credential programs should also be created so that workers can use their skills in multiple states.
  • Energy Efficiency: To lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we need to efficiently use energy to lessen our consumption. One of the most popular ways to do so is through the renovation or construction of public buildings and schools to be more energy efficient.  Imperative in this task will be to select performance-based standards. Also important in any energy efficiency model will be to create innovative financing mechanisms that leverage private investment; an option is on-utility-bill financing, which has been introduced in a few states. While opponents of green buildings and schools claim that their construction is more costly than regular buildings, studies show that there is not a major difference between the costs of constructing a green building versus non-green buildings
  • Renewable Energy:  More than 35 states have already enacted renewable portfolio standards, requiring utilities to obtain a certain share of electricity from renewable resources.  Thanks to these standards, states like Ohio, California, and Texas have already experienced job creation across sectors like the wind and solar industries, and across clusters like manufacturers and the construction industry. The standards have been so evidently successful that the federal government is likely to follow suit with support from both parties.
  • Technology Investment: To significantly curtail our dependence on foreign fossil fuels and gain independence on job creation we must use the technologies that will further stimulate energy efficiency and renewable energy generation. Technology will help us improve the capacity and connectivity or our electrical infrastructure, making it smarter and more efficient.  State legislators have the opportunity to follow a few of their counterparts' footsteps in creating technology discovery programs and smart grid task forces.

For more information on our work on Green Jobs, please contact: Fabiola Carrión, Broadband and Green Jobs Policy Specialist 212-680-3116, ext 104; fcarrion@progressivestates.org.

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