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Clean Energy Economy a Bright Spot for Job Growth

WASHINGTON, DC, June 12, 2009 (ENS) – The number of jobs in America’s emerging clean energy economy grew about 2.5 times faster than overall jobs between 1998 and 2007, finds a report released Wednesday by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Included in Pew’s definition of the clean energy economy are jobs as diverse as engineers, plumbers, administrative assistants, construction workers, machine setters, marketing consultants, teachers and many others, with annual incomes ranging from $21,000 to $111,000.

Pew developed a clear definition of the clean energy economy and conducted the first-ever hard count across all 50 states of the actual jobs, companies and venture capital investments that supply the growing market demand for environmentally friendly products and services.

The survey found that jobs in the clean energy economy grew at a national rate of 9.1 percent, while traditional jobs grew by only 3.7 percent between 1998 and 2007.

By 2007, more than 68,200 businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia accounted for about 770,000 jobs that achieve the double bottom line of economic growth and environmental sustainability, the report finds.

Now, the clean energy sector is ready to expand, driven by increasing consumer demand, venture capital infusions, and federal and state policy reforms, the report concludes.

National Wind Technology Center employee Garth Johnson works in the hub of a wind turbine rotor. December 2006. (Photo by Lee Fingerish courtesy NREL)

“The clean energy economy is poised for explosive growth,” said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States. “These jobs are driving economic growth and environmental sustainability at a time when America needs both. There is a potential competitive advantage for federal and state policy leaders who act now to spur jobs, businesses and investments in the clean energy sector.”

There was a similar pattern at the state level, where job growth in the clean energy economy outperformed overall job growth in 38 states and the District of Columbia during the same period – between 1998 and 2007.

“The Pew Charitable Trusts report illuminates how the clean energy economy is a strong and important part of New Mexico’s and America’s economy,” said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat. “Over the past six years, my administration has pursued clean energy policies ranging from a strong renewable portfolio standard to a robust set of clean energy tax incentives. For America to lead the global clean energy economy we need Congress to follow the lead of states like New Mexico and pass comprehensive policies that spur innovation and economic growth.”

America’s clean energy economy has grown despite a lack of sustained government support in the past decade. By 2007, more than 68,200 businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia accounted for about 770,000 jobs.

By comparison, the fossil-fuel sector — including utilities, coal mining and oil and gas extraction, industries that have received significant government investment — included about 1.27 million workers in 2007.

Pew’s definition of the clean energy economy is based on research and input from experts in the field, including an advisory panel convened to help guide the study.

According to Pew, “a clean energy economy generates jobs, businesses and investments while expanding clean energy production, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution, and conserving water and other natural resources.”

The definition provides a framework for tracking jobs, investments and economic growth over time and allowing the public and private sector to evaluate the effectiveness of policy choices and investments.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist, a Republican, says the Pew report demonstrates what his administration has known for a long time. “Embracing a clean energy future for Florida will produce a vital new economic sector with new job opportunities across the Sunshine State while protecting our environment and increasing our energy security,” said the governor. “The measures we’ve taken to increase renewable energy, energy efficiency, and biofuel production in Florida are attracting new capital and creating new jobs.”

Venture capital investment in clean technology crossed the $1 billion threshold in 2005 and continued to grow substantially, reaching a total of about $12.6 billion by the end of 2008, the report finds.

In 2008, investors directed $5.9 billion into American businesses in the clean energy economy. This figure represents a 48 percent increase over 2007 investment totals and accounts for 15 percent of all global venture capital investments.

Tennessee is one of the states that is benefitting from some of these investments.

“Tennessee has worked hard to be a leader in the clean energy sector and it’s clear from the Pew report that our efforts are yielding dividends in job creation,” said Governor Phil Bredesen, a Democrat. “Expanding our focus on energy efficiency, renewable power production and other clean energy activities is helping jumpstart our state’s economy, and it happens to be the right thing to do for the environment.”

States will receive a major infusion of federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allocates nearly $85 billion in direct spending and tax incentives for energy and transportation programs.

Despite receiving Recovery Act funds, state fiscal conditions deteriorated for nearly every state during fiscal 2009, according to a report from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers released June 4.

Still, every state offers some form of financial incentive to drive its clean energy economy.

Twenty-three states have adopted regional initiatives to reduce the global warming pollution from power plants, 46 states offer some form of tax incentive to encourage residents and corporations to use renewable energy or adopt energy efficiency systems and equipment, and 29 states and the District of Columbia have established renewable portfolio standards, which require electricity providers to supply a minimum amount of power from renewable energy sources.

It is possible to reach for the clean energy brass ring and miss. Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have large clean energy economies that are losing jobs. Difficult economic conditions have led to a net loss of these jobs in these four states during the past 10 years.

Still, overall the clean energy economy is moving ahead.

“There is bipartisan support and a growing market demand for transitioning to the clean energy economy,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director, U.S. Global Warming Campaign, at the Pew Environment Group.

“Americans understand the transition is good for the overall economy, is creating new opportunities for jobs and business growth, and helps protect our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” Cuttino said.

Clean energy legislation is moving in the House of Representatives, and Cuttino says that’s what the country needs. She said, “Congress and the Obama administration can and must produce energy and global warming legislation that creates jobs, enhances energy independence and sustains our environment.”

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