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The Next Superheroes (Part II) - Millions of Them

Pete Altman

Posted September 9, 2008 in Moving Beyond Oil

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How can we address the energy crisis, the economic crisis and the climate crisis in one swoop? By investing in clean energy, according to a new report by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The report, released today by labor, environmental and policy groups (including NRDC) shows that investing in clean energy systems like wind and solar power, rapid transit and energy efficiency creates nearly four times as many jobs as investing in more oil production.

The job-generating power of clean energy is due to the fact that it is labor-intensive – lots of workers are needed to build, deliver and install new clean energy equipment and technologies. What’s more, these solutions create three times as many good jobs – those that pay at least $16 dollars an hour—as the oil industry. Two million Americans would be put to work if we invested $100 billion investment in the following clean energy climate solutions:

  • Retrofitting buildings to improve energy efficiency
  • Expanding mass transit and freight rail
  • Constructing “smart” electrical grid transmission systems
  • Wind power
  • Solar power
  • Next generation biofuels

What kind of jobs are created by clean energy investments? As I’ve previously discussed, clean energy requires a wide range of jobs skills – from carpenters to welders – a range of skills that millions of Americans already have. As the new PERI report points out, 800,000 of the new jobs would be in construction, one of the sectors hardest hit by the housing downturn.

One other major advantage of clean energy, according to the report: it provides opportunities to rebuild career ladders, especially in construction and manufacturing, through training and workforce development that, if properly implemented, can provide pathways out of poverty to those who need jobs most. 

Clean energy strategies don’t just create more jobs, they free up more energy than going back to the oil well. As my colleague Luke Tonachel points out, “better cars, buildings, communities and fuels” would free up 11 times more oil than we can drill out of the Arctic and the offshore zones oil companies are so eager to get at.

And, of course this is the path we need to set on to deal with global warming. A federal climate policy that charges polluters for every ton of global warming pollution they emit would raise money on the order needed to jump-start a clean energy economy.

The report, “Green Recovery – A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy,” was commissioned by the Center for American Progress (CAP).

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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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