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Jobs For Today AND Tomorrow

 The President’s response to the call for jobs now is necessarily focused on short-term triggers.  But, we must simultaneously seed the jobs for the next two to five years, or we will just keep putting ourselves back into the same hole.  These so-called “medium term jobs” must come from growth sectors in the global economy where the U.S. has skills and ideas to offer.  To me, the most promising of those sectors are health care and clean energy & resource management.

Source: Veterans News Now

It is in the latter area that the U.S. needs to, as David Brooks recently described, “set the table” with policies that create customers for the many small to large businesses that are striving to participate in this new sector.  In our survey of clean energy businesses, 73% are small businesses with less than 50 employees.  Of these, according to market research by Frost & Sullivan, one third believed that the failure to pass clean energy legislation last year had an effect on their business and 7 out of 10 thought their sales would increase if the U.S. passed new policies to reduce greenhouse gases.

When business of all sizes know that they are going to have customers – not just today from a short term stimulus or other plan, but customers derived from a long term commitment by our country to move to clean energy and less air pollution – they can  hire permanent employees.   In California, where the state has been slowly but steadily setting the table with rules for cleaner vehicles, a renewable portfolio standard, the Global Warming Solutions Act and energy efficient building codes, the clean energy sector is a growing source of jobs.  For example, according to Next 10 report from May 2011, jobs in manufacturing of clean energy and resource management activities grew 19% between 1995 and 2008 while total manufacturing employment in the state dropped 9%.

Without creating customers, “clean energy jobs” workforce training programs become a bridge to nowhere, the promise of clean energy jobs falters and businesses remain faced with lots of uncertainty and a natural reluctance to permanently hire new people.  The National Infrastructure Bank and rebuilding schools will hopefully create customers for some of these firms.  But what businesses really need to hire people is the prospect of customers over the medium-term.  We need Presidential leadership on federal clean energy policies to help deliver a steady-stream of customers and seed the jobs of tomorrow.

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Grid Modernization, Jobs, Renewable Energy, Washington, DC / Read 2 Responses

Look No Further Than The Clean Energy Economy

The micro-economics of sustainability are big and important: according to The Brookings Institution, the “clean economy” employs 2.7 million workers, which compares favorably to fossil fuels at 2.4 million jobs.  That figure represents 57,501 firms in the U.S. directly involved in the clean economy.  Of course, I continue to believe many important clean economy jobs in the supply chain are missed in these types of studies.  For example, Shuttleworth in Indiana diversified its customer base from solely electronics customers to now having roughly 30% of its business from solar customers.  While it may be near impossible to capture these nuances in standard Bureau of Labor Statistics data, such examples illustrate even more how the clean economy provides added value for U.S. job retention and creation (see the The Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness report for more information on the diverse firms in involved in the supply chains for many clean energy solutions).

Source: Brookings

Most encouraging, however, are two other key findings: the high growth rate for the clean economy sub-sector related to clean energy – 8.3% from 2003-2010 which is essentially double the growth rate for the entire economy during the same period (4.2%).   Secondly, the report documents the export strength of this sector of the clean economy versus the overall economy:  $20,129 versus $10,390 per job.  To bring us out of the recession and reduce the deficit, we need economic activity that enables us to grow fast and export more.  Look no further than the clean energy economy.   The growth rate validates an earlier study by the Pew Charitable Trusts published in 2009 characterizing the Clean Energy Economy which found a growth rate of 9.1% from 1998-2007.

So, what do these companies need to fulfill their promise?   More than anything, they need a predictable stream of U.S. customers.  So, every time a politician talks about the need to create jobs, reduce the deficit and grow America again, ask him or her what they are doing to create policies that deliver customers to these firms.

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