Green Collar Jobs Plan Examined

According to a new study by the Center for American Progress, CAP, increased economic investment in clean energy sources could help revive the U.S. economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. They recommend investing $100 billion in the green economy, which can, according to John Podesta, the President of CAP , “create 2 million good jobs in the next two years”. The Center For American Progress, or CAP, is the Washington, DC-based think tank that sponsored the study.

The study issued a report, entitled, “Green Recovery – A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low Carbon Economy”. The report shows that this year alone more than half a million Americans have lost their jobs due to the lingering energy crisis and economic downturn. In fact, according to CNN I saw today on TV that the number is around 606,000, which is huge. Here in my home state of Florida alone, we have a half million unemployed, but that number has accumulated over years. The current half million additional unemployed discussed in this report is from the last twelve months alone.

“Our economy is in trouble,” according to Mr. Podesta. He also states that “falling home prices, foreclosures, bank failures, a weaker dollar, rising prices for gas, food, and steel, and layoffs in the banking, construction, and manufacturing sectors are all indicators of serious economic strain.”

Bob Pollin and his colleagues at the University of Massachusetts’ Political Economy Research Institute who prepared the study for CAP, say there is strong evidence that the current economic crisis will not be over very soon. Again, I saw on CNN this morning that it may take as long as two years before we start to see sunlight. Here in Florida we are predicting two years for our local real estate market to stop seizing.

This economic crisis is the most amazing disaster I’ve ever seen. I’ve heard horror stories from my elders about the great depression and the struggles during wartime but this is the worst I’ve personally experienced. It’s really scary. And this study also indicates the economic decline will continue for at least one more year, which is a little more positive than other reports I’ve seen. And all of this doom and gloom is regardless of whether Washington demands more investment in green energy sources or continues its current policy of demanding only oil.

But the study’s authors also say that the current economic mess could be drastically improved if the next President and his Government moves toward new and innovative energy policies and requires larger investment in green technologies and products. According to their projections, if such a plan is put into motion, it would create hundreds of thousands of jobs for construction workers, many of whom have been out of work for over a year as a result of the current economic crisis and housing disaster.

The study clearly points out that construction employment has fallen from 8 million to 7.2 million jobs over the past two years due to the housing bubble collapse. It also claims that it is likely that many other construction workers will find themselves in a similar situation in the coming months. The study’s authors believe their program, “The Green Recovery” program can, at a minimum, bring back close to 800,000 construction jobs.

The “Green Recovery” plan also recommends retrofitting buildings to increase energy efficiency. It is assumed that the cost of doing this is not prohibitive and well worth it. The program also recommends expanding mass transit and freight rail, constructing smart electrical grid transmission systems, and increased use of wind power, solar power, and advanced biofuels. This looks like a bright outlook for our future and we should be excited about these ideas. They could, literally, change our world.

According to Mr. Podesta, the study “program provides the infrastructure to jumpstart a comprehensive clean energy transformation”. Mr. Podesta also thinks that the proposed $100-billion plan would create nearly four times more jobs than spending the same amount of money within the oil industry. In fact, the study’s findings suggest that the implementation of the plan would bring the unemployment rate down to around 4.4 percent from the current 5.7 percent.

Another great aspect of the plan will appeal to more conservative folk. Mr. Podesta points out that their ” report looked at investments that were funded through an increase in near-term government spending, which could ultimately be repaid by future carbon cap-and-trade revenues.” This should appeal to those Americans who hate waste and Government overspending. Mr. Podesta is referring to a government program that would limit the amount of carbon dioxide companies can emit and then allow those companies to buy and sell their carbon allowances in a free-market system.

Of the $100 billion the study suggests should be invested, Podesta’s group recommended the U.S. government spend $50 billion to invest in renewable energy systems and provide tax credits to help private businesses and homeowners retrofit their buildings to make use of renewable energy technologies. Another $46 billion in direct government spending would support public building retrofits and the expansion of mass transit, freight rail, and smart electrical grid systems. The final $4 billion would take the form of federal loan guarantees, which would underwrite private credit that would be extended to finance building retrofits and investments in renewable energy.

In other words, the study has come to the conclusion that such investment in this industry will not only pay for itself but generate profits in the long term.

And of all things, it looks like even the Steel Workers Union agrees. Although it is expected that environmental groups would jump on board, it seems even labor rights activists welcome the “Green Recovery” plan,. and have said they hope the next administration in Washington will pursue polices that promote green business.

“Environmental issues have to be the cornerstone of any future trade and labor standards,” said Leo Gerard, president of the International Union of United Steel Workers, who thinks there is a great potential for new jobs in construction and transport. This outlook requires vision and foresight and I am glad to see that people are willing to move forward instead of merely mourn the past. However, the future of this entire concept, however wonderful it seems, will depend on the what actions the next president and Congress take.

In the spirit of promising a reduced risk, Mr. Podesta has also said that they “can pledge to repay the Treasury the cost of the green infrastructure recovery program from cap-and-trade auction revenue,” referring to the new Green industries. “The plan increases public spending in the short term when a near-recession economy needs greater impetus to growth,” Podesta added, “but it remains consistent with a fiscally responsible long-term plan to reduce the debt as a share of GDP.”

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