“How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda Is Killing Jobs”

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On September 22, The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa chaired yet another Republican hearing against the president’s climate change policy in the new GOP-held House. In the hearing, titled “How Obama’s Green Energy Agenda Is Killing Jobs” Issa claimed that President Obama is destroying jobs by conducting a “systematic war” against fossil energy by aggressively pushing clean energy.

To stop climate change, obviously it is necessary to switch to a clean energy economy, and so government policy that aggressively pushes a clean energy economy is the appropriate response. The only way to avoid the conclusion that we must aggressively push clean energy would be to pretend that climate scientists do not know what they say they know about climate change, which is what Issa’s party is pretending to believe, because they are paid to pretend that climate scientists do not know these things.

According to Clean Energy Report, Issa ridiculed administration estimates that energy innovation will create five million green jobs within 10 years. That does seem like a tall order, with tail winds like a $50 billion Koch-brother-funded GOP holding back policy. But according to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, tasked with the clean economy job of defending the administration’s clean economy policy against its enemies, we are already more than half way there.

Solis cited the June Brookings Institution report that estimated clean economy jobs at 2.7 million. The way labor is classified, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and used by Solis and in the Brookings study, the definition is that “green jobs help to preserve or restore the environment or conserve natural resources.” They are not simply the jobs directly producing clean energy.

Solis argued that the clean energy sector is a broad one that encompasses energy efficient mass transit and other sectors that are part of a “whole new industry” emerging as a result of private investment decisions that the federal government is supporting in various ways. This definition is long overdue. The oft-touted solar panel manufacturers and turbine installers are really just the tip of the iceberg of the new clean energy economy that is growing around us.

Here is a personal example. Last spring, I took advantage of the new low prices for solar, cutting my energy bill to $4 from $100. But it took my small town’s building department an astounding four months to approve the solar permit for our roof, because our old-school building inspector lacked the expertise to handle solar permitting, and couldn’t bring himself to decide one way or another about our application.

Our city council finally added an additional building inspector in the building department who did have solar expertise, and our application was approved. That is one indirect clean economy job, (and so is that of the solar electrical instructor who taught him). Yet many people would think to count only the jobs of the four men who spent a couple of hours installing on our roof.

By the Labor Department definition, a bus driver who drives a emissions-free bus, for example, has a new clean economy job, even though it is not directly producing clean energy. But Florida Republican Connie Mack challenged the classification of a bus driving job as green just because the bus was a clean vehicle.

Citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ definition of green jobs, Solis responded that the fuel efficient, clean bus is part of the emerging clean energy economy and that the Labor Department was “not misleading the public” in classifying it as “green jobs help to preserve or restore the environment or conserve natural resources.”

Mack said the job was not “green” but was simply a job. He later suggested that the Labor Department should not “pad statistics” to make it look like green jobs programs are working.

To most Americans, “simply a job” looks pretty good these days. Clean economy jobs enable us to work and live in a clean energy economy that leaves a future economy for future people to have a job in.

Whether it is a building inspector who permits a new kind of self-sufficient climate-friendly home, a bus driver who drives a new kind of climate-friendly bus, or an official who defends a new kind of climate-friendly policy against its sworn enemies, these are all good new jobs in cities and towns around the country, created by Obama’s “systematic war on fossil fuels.”

But, as Kate Gordon notes at ThinkProgress, the hard core clean energy sector – wind, solar, fuel cell, smart grid, biofuel, and battery companies – grew far more quickly, at nearly twice the growth rate of the economy as a whole, at an average rate of 8.3%.

That’s some “job killing” green energy agenda!


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