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News Flash: More Jobs and Lower Energy Costs Good for Low-Income Americans

Pete Altman

Posted June 18, 2009 in Solving Global Warming

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Memo

TO: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, Heritage Foundation and other industry groups predicting the end of life as we know if America takes action on climate change

FROM: Natural Resources Defense Council, Political Economic Research Institute/University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Green for All and the Center For American Progress

Subject: Inconvenient New Study Debunks Your Scare Tactics about the American Clean Energy and Security Act

It's time to face facts. You are just wrong when you forecast massive job losses, economic dislocation and harm to low-income Americans if the U.S. takes action on energy/green jobs issues.   Contrary to what you've been suggesting, it turns out that "down is not up" and "night is not day":   More green jobs resulting from tackling climate change is a good thing for America - including lower-income households.

Today, NRDC and Green for All are releasing "Green Prosperity:  How Clean-Energy Policies Can Fight Poverty and Raise Living Standard in the United States" a new report by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI.)

The report finds that half of the net new jobs created through clean energy investments would be accessible to workers with high school degrees or less, and that about 75% of those jobs will offer good opportunities promotions and rising wages over time. In addition, investments in energy efficiency and transportation reduce monthly living expenses, which consume a high proportion of the budgets for low-income budgets.

The report concludes: 

"The building of a clean-energy economy in the United States can also serve another purpose: to create new 'pathways out of poverty' for the 78 million people in this country (roughly 25 percent of the population) who are presently poor or near-poor, and raise living standards more generally for low-income people in the United States."

According to a complementary study that PERI recently completed with the Center for American Progress (CAP), clean-energy investments at the level of about $150 billion per year-i.e. around 1 percent of U.S. GDP-can generate about 1.7 million net new jobs throughout the U.S. economy."

Here is what the new study found:

Less unemployment and more earnings

  • The 1 percentage point fall in unemployment should raise earnings for low-income workers by about 2 percent.

More & better jobs for those who need them most

  • More than half of the net new jobs - roughly 870,000 - would be accessible to workers with high school degrees or less.
  • About 75% of those jobs - roughly 614,000 - will offer good opportunities promotions and rising wages over time. The job creation within this category is seven times larger than the number of jobs that would be created in this category by spending the same amount of money within the fossil fuel industry.
  • 3.2 times more jobs overall than fossil-fuel investments.

{Sidebar: See and hear workers in the clean energy economy talk about their clean energy jobs here.}

Lower home utility bills for low-income Americans

  • Making homes more energy efficient reduces living costs by an average of 3-4 percent for low-income households.

Improved Public Transportation

  • Improving public transportation in urban centers to about 25-50 percent of total transportation could lower costs and raise living standards for low-income households by an average of 1-4 percent.
  • The largest benefits will accrue to households that can replace a car with public transit.
  • These households would see their annual transportation expenditures fall by roughly $2,000.
  • This would represent a reduction in total expenditures for these families by about 10 percent.

So, let's get the story straight: Tackling climate change means more jobs, more income and lower living expenses for low-income Americans. The conclusion is simple: If you really care about poor and near-poor Americans, get on the right team and start working for Congressional action on climate change and green jobs.  I'm not holding my breath here, but I would like to think that you can't ignore the facts forever!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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