Some 110,000 new jobs could result from the more than 300 clean energy and clean transportation projects announced in the US in 2012, according to a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), “a national community of individual business leaders who advocate for good environmental policy while building economic prosperity.”
Job creation in the clean energy and clean transportation sectors was broad-based, both in terms of geography and market sector last year, according to E2′s “Clean Energy Jobs Quarterly Report: Q4 2012 and the year in review.”
“It’s now crystal-clear that clean energy and clean transportation are helping our economy recover,” E2 executive director Judith Albert was quoted in a press release. “The projects and job announcements like we saw in 2012 can continue – as long as we don’t let smart energy policies get hijacked by special interests.”
E2 identified three major clean energy economy trends for 2012:
- North Carolina’s emergence as center for clean energy manufacturing and jobs growth;
- the consistency of solar energy in terms of job creation potential; and
- setbacks due to opposition and inconsistent support for clean energy in Congress.
According to E2, “In 2012, clean energy projects created jobs in every corner of the country and across both Republican and Democratic communities. California, North Carolina and Florida led the nation. Illinois, Connecticut, Arizona, New York, Michigan, Texas and Oregon rounded out the Top 10.”
Turning to specific green economy sectors, clean energy transportation projects led job growth in 2012, followed by clean power generation, manufacturing and energy efficiency projects. The solar energy sector proved to be “a consistent job creator, with 19,100 jobs announced in power generation and manufacturing nationwide.
“Other clean energy industries experienced steady numbers throughout the year as well – including wind power generation, energy efficiency, advanced vehicle manufacturing, and public transportation. But solar energy’s job announcement gains were noteworthy for their relatively high and steady numbers in every quarter.”
Overall, nearly 16,000 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in Q4 alone, up from 10,000 in Q3. The announcement of a light-rail transportation expansion project in Charlotte, N.C. was a big factor: 7,000 jobs are expected to be created as a result, according to E2.
Though lagging in terms of renewable energy deployments and installations, the Southeast region led the country when it came to clean energy manufacturing job announcements. The regional total of 13,700 for 2012 amounts to 80% of the national total, with Southeast solar, advanced vehicles, and wind energy manufacturing leading the way.
E2′s Q4 and 2012 year in review follows in the wake of reports of record growth in US solar and wind energy and President Obama announcing goals of doubling US renewable energy and energy efficiency in the next three years. It also comes amid campaigns by “groups and lobbyists backed by the fossil fuel industry… trying to derail clean energy policies, including state Renewable Portfolio Standards, in states across the country,” E2 notes in its press release.
“State policies have done a lot to drive growth in the clean energy industry,” Albert elaborated. “If lawmakers care about creating good, clean energy jobs in their neighborhoods, they should continue supporting those policies. If not, they can sit back and watch these good-paying jobs go elsewhere.”
Pro renewable energy, clean technology, and energy efficiency policies and programs initiated by the Obama Administration have played an instrumental role in fostering business and job growth in the clean energy and clean transportation sectors. It’s at the state level where policy and program initiatives have been broader based and more sustained, however.
US energy policy under the Obama Administration has taken a decided turn in the direction of fostering growth in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, but staunch opposition in Congress has been holding back the transition to a cleaner, greener US energy infrastructure, economy, and society.
With Congress waiting until the last minute to extend the US wind energy production tax credit (PTC) for one more year, the number of clean power generation jobs announced in 2012′s fourth quarter plummeted more than 60%, falling to around 3,600 from about 6,000 in 3Q, according to E2′s report.
“Smart policies and regulatory certainty– at both the federal and state levels – drive economic growth,” Albert commented. “If 2012 taught us anything, it’s that if America wants to keep creating good, clean energy jobs, we need good, clean energy policies.”
Some groups are also working to foster ongoing gains in clean energy and clean transportation as a means of redressing troubling trends in the distribution of wealth, income, opportunity and political representation.
“Jobs in clean energy are real and growing. Environmental Entrepreneurs’ report shows that more states like North Carolina and Ohio, with strong communities of color, are recognizing the return on investment in American workers,” Green For All CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins was quoted in a press release.
“A robust, serious commitment to doubling our clean energy investments in light rail and other clean energy technologies will grow America’s economy and create good, healthy, family-supporting jobs for folks who’ve traditionally been left behind.”
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.