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Strong Support for Clean Energy, and the Jobs It Creates, Crosses Party Lines

A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) says the renewable energy industry is responsible for 615,000 jobs in the United States. That’s hundreds of thousands of Americans working to provide this country with clean energy from wind, sun and plants. It’s the military vet in Kansas putting her hydraulics knowledge to work in her new job servicing 300-foot-tall wind turbines. It’s the former glass maker in Toledo, Ohio, who’s now manufacturing solar panels. It’s the farmer who’s got a new buyer in the biofuel plant just across the county line. It’s engineers and managers and truckers and technicians in nearly every state in the nation.

Renewable energy development is making a difference in this country, bringing sorely needed jobs and revenue to communities, while protecting clean air and clean water. Clean, renewable energy is working for us. That’s why so many Americans, from all political stripes, want to see more of it.  

A recent national poll found that voters preferred investing in clean energy and efficiency over traditional fossil fuel energy by a margin of nearly 2-to-1. In Kansas, a recent poll found overwhelming support for clean, renewable energy and the government policies that encourage its growth. Roughly three-quarters of Republicans and Independents, and 82 percent of Democrats, support the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that utilities generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. In fact, two-thirds of voters said they would support increasing the state’s standard to 25 percent. Nine out of ten poll respondents believed that using renewable energy is the right thing to do for the future of Kansas and the country.

Communities in Kansas are not alone in reaping the benefits of clean, renewable energy. According to preliminary analysis from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), more than 78,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced across the country in 2013. Over the past two years combined, E2 has tracked announcements that could create more than 186,500 jobs.

Federal tax policies–such as the production tax credit (PTC) for wind energy, as well as energy efficiency tax incentives for buildings, equipment and appliances— are saving money and creating tens of thousands of jobs while also reducing dangerous carbon pollution that causes climate change and health problems. Congress allowed clean energy tax credits to expire last year: it needs to renew them.

In addition to creating thousands of jobs in the wind energy industry alone, clean energy tax credits save billions of dollars for taxpayers by helping make our homes, schools and office buildings more efficient, and making everyday appliances and equipment use less energy. Energy efficiency, of course, is the cleanest energy of all—there’s nothing cleaner than the energy we don’t use—and it drives job growth as well. In Ohio, for example, utility efficiency efforts alone have created 3,800 jobs, and are expected to create 32,000 jobs by 2025. Federal energy efficiency standards for appliances have generated 340,000 jobs as of 2010, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Clean energy is one of those issues that we can all rally around. We all want to breathe clean air and drink clean water. We all want to keep the lights on. We’d all like to avoid a future of more frequent, costly extreme weather, from crippling snowstorms in the South, and exhausting drought in the West, to dangerous hurricanes in the East and deadly floods in the Midwest. And we want a strong economy with good jobs, too.

Americans are looking to clean renewable energy because it provides so many of the solutions people are looking for—jobs, environmental protection, reliability, security. With the right policies in place to support the growth of renewable energy, we can continue to move toward a future of 100 percent clean energy.

Peter Lehner's picture

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Jesper Antonsson's picture
Jesper Antonsson on Feb 9, 2014 5:57 pm GMT

If you ask an economist, he’d likely tell you that “creating jobs” is a drawback, since jobs is not a good we create, but a resource we consume. We want the energy sector to consume as few jobs as possible, so as many as possible can work in other areas. Letting the energy sector’s jobs ballon without a corresponding output growth will make us poorer.

Also, it’s very easy to find energy efficiency measures that are far more expensive than new energy production. You don’t have to go farther than a LED bulb to understand this.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Feb 10, 2014 3:54 am GMT

We need to encourage the subsidization of national rare earths extraction, so as to guarantee that we have the ability to make strategic choices (and renewable energy parts, electric cars, etc). This is, to me, FAR more important than subsidizing Chinese solar panels to individuals!

Also, we need to subsidize the development of closed cycle nuclear reactors, so as to guarantee that we have an energy infrastructure in the coming decades.

Of course, subsidy should only be used as a tool to lower costs for any necessary commodity so that it can reach a certain (but still small) percent of market potential.

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