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Environmental Protection & Preservation

Markey: Clean Energy Future Creates Half a Million "Green Collar" Jobs

A national transition towards large-scale use of clean energy technology would not only reduce heat-trapping pollution, but would create hundreds of thousands of good American jobs and provide underserved communities a pathway out of poverty, a congressional committee learned today at a hearing in Washington. The Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Chaired by Edward Markey (D-MA), welcomed experts on clean energy and job development to discuss the vast economic, environmental and energy security potential of a clean energy future for America.

"Low-income communities are often the first to see pollution arrive, and the first to see good jobs leave," said Chairman Markey. "Our shared moral obligation to fight global warming and reduce oil dependence must include a commitment to job-creating clean energy solutions in our nation's struggling communities."

Reducing global warming pollution and oil imports will require an increase in energy efficiency and use of renewable energy in the United States. This will necessitate a new cadre of "green collar" workers needed for everything from the research, design, and engineering of new systems to the manufacture, installation, and maintenance of clean-tech investments. The range of jobs and skills requirements is wide, but the potential employment impact is substantial: in a recent analysis the Cleantech Venture Network estimated that as many as 500,000 green collar jobs could be created by 2010.

The witnesses at the hearing come from a diverse background and believe in the potential to lift areas out of poverty through an effective transition to a green economy that is positive economically and distributes benefits widely across demographic groups. Currently, a large proportion of dirty power generation exists in low-income urban communities where problems in education, health, crime, employment, and affordable housing are endemic. Including these communities in the economic expansion promised by the green economy has the potential to bring large numbers of people out of poverty, while improving the environment and public health, the witnesses said.

The witnesses heard today were Jerome Ringo, President, Apollo Alliance; Van Jones, President and Co-Founder, Ella Baker Center in Oakland, CA; Elsa Barboza, Campaign Coordinator for Green Industries, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) in Los Angeles, CA; Bob Thelen, Chief Training Officer, Capital Area Michigan Works! in Lansing, MI.

"The leaders in our low-income communities have seen the ties between asthma and global warming," Chairman Markey continued. "Global warming and clean energy are not just environmental issues, but economic and human rights issues as well."

Renewable energy technologies also reduce owners' exposure to fuel price volatility and the regulatory risks and penalties associated with future global warming policies and other environmental and health problems. Renewable energy generation creates far more jobs per unit of energy produced and per dollar spent than fossil fuel generation while producing the valuable geopolitical and macroeconomic benefits of enhanced energy security.

Several other jobs studies have pointed to the economic potential of clean energy:
  • The U.S. ethanol industry created nearly 154,000 jobs throughout the nation's economy in 2005 alone, boosting household income by $5.7 billion.
  • An Apollo Alliance study shows that major national investments in renewable energy, alternative automobiles and fuels, high performance buildings and infrastructure would result in the creation of nearly 3.5 million green collar jobs for Americans over a ten year period.
  • A 2004 Renewable Energy Policy Project study determined that increasing U.S. wind capacity to 50,000 megawatts (MW)-about five times today's level-would create 150,000 manufacturing jobs, while pumping $20 billion in investment into the national economy.
  • A 2004 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that increasing the share of renewable energy in the U.S. electricity system to 20 percent-adding more than 160,000 MW of new renewable energy facilities by 2020-would create more than 355,000 new U.S. jobs

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