As reported by The Associated Press, in this morning’s weekly radio address President Obama has just announced that almost $2 billion in federal funding for solar energy and green jobs is in the pipeline. The money will go to construct solar power installations in Arizona, Colorado and Indiana.
The awards were made to Abengoa Solar and Abound Solar Manufacturing. All together, the projects will create more than 3,600 construction jobs. The Abound projects alone will also result in more than 1,500 permanent jobs. But hey – it’s not the meat, it’s the motion: instead of destroying host communities the way that fossil fuel harvesting does, the new solar energy jobs will provide a “trickle-up” boost for local businesses.
Fossil Fuel Harvesting is on the Way Out
BP’s catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has shined a spotlight on the high risks involved in fossil fuel harvesting, and the devastating effect that risk-taking has on local communities. However, the Gulf states are not the only ones suffering the onslaught. The coal industry, for example, has spent the last decade literally blowing up hundreds of pristine mountains throughout the Appalachian region, and filled in thousands of miles of streams with debris. While the industry is fond of touting job creation, in fact coal mining closely correlates with chronic poverty and poor health throughout the region (and don’t get me started on other coal mining impacts). Two major coal mining states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, are also getting the double whammy from a natural gas drilling method called fracking, which involves shooting a toxic chemical brine underground, and evidence is mounting about the consequences for local water supplies.
Green Jobs and Solar Power
No word yet on whether those new jobs will be filled by union workers, but U.S. labor unions are squarely behind clean, renewable energy. That puts union workers squarely on the side of the entire U.S. miliary’s renewable energy policy (support our troops, right?), which calls for getting the U.S. off of fossil fuels, both foreign and domestic. Dedicating more federal funds to low-risk renewable energy projects such as solar and wind is a policy that puts people to work in beneficial jobs and strengthens local communities while accomplishing critical national defense goals. Imagine how much more could be accomplished by taking all those billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies and applying them to clean energy. Who could hate it?
Update: Many more details are available from the White House here.
Image: Money by Tracy O on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.