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Clean tech jobs for veterans could be at risk if the Trump Administration and its Republican supporters in Congress follow through on EPA and DOE cuts.

Policy & Politics

Trump Gets Props For Showing Up, US Military Veterans Get Lip Service

Clean tech jobs for veterans could be at risk if the Trump Administration and its Republican supporters in Congress follow through on EPA and DOE cuts.

Now that everybody else has weighed in on President Donald J. Trump’s speech before a joint session of Congress, it’s time for CleanTechnica to sweep up over by the cigarette machine. Unfortunately the pickings were quite slim in terms of our favorite topics. The speech, while nicely read, included just one brief passage touching on innovation. That’s unfortunate because innovation in the clean tech field has become an important element in national defense, and in creating new job opportunities for military veterans.

Oh, well. Like they say, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your President’s nose. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the American innovation tidbit that President Trump tossed out.

Where Is The Innovation?

To be clear, Trump did not mention innovation by name. Nor, for that matter, did the speech include any words like science, scientist, research or technology, except for one instance.

That occurs in a passage dealing with immigration, a topic that Trump touched upon with frequency:

Nations around the world, like Canada, Australia and many others — have a merit-based immigration system. It is a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially. Yet, in America, we do not enforce this rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely upon. According to the National Academy of Sciences, our current immigration system costs America’s taxpayers many billions of dollars a year.

Like we said, pretty slim pickings, but the word “Sciences” is in the name of the organization, so there’s that.

To be precise, though, there is no such thing as the National Academy of Sciences. There is such a thing as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which is commonly shortened to National Academies of Sciences.

The study to which Trump referred is most likely a significant September 2016 report on immigration from the National Academies.

Just a wild guess, but we’re guessing that the mixup over the name could possibly be traced to a slanted article about the report penned under the auspices of The Center For Immigration Studies (an anti-immigrant organization according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The findings were highly nuanced, but generally speaking it concluded the opposite of Trump’s characterization:

“The panel’s comprehensive examination revealed many important benefits of immigration — including on economic growth, innovation, and entrepreneurship — with little to no negative effects on the overall wages or employment of native-born workers in the long term,” said Francine D. Blau, Frances Perkins Professor of Industrial and Labor Relations and professor of economics at Cornell University, and chair of the panel that conducted the study and wrote the report.

Here’s another snippet indicating that Trump’s broad reference to “public resources” is misleading:

Over the long term, the impacts of immigrants on government budgets are generally positive at the federal level but remain negative at the state and local level — but these generalizations are subject to a number of important assumptions. Immigration’s fiscal effects vary tremendously across states.

And so on.

Not for nothing, but misrepresenting the cost of immigration was just the tip of the iceberg in a a rolling spiel of alternative facts.

Nevertheless, the reviews were peppered with compliments about how presidential Trump appeared. Seriously, how does this guy get any credit at all for simply not falling over while reading from a teleprompter for about an hour?

What About The Innovation?

Where were we? Oh right, the reference to innovation. Here’s the passage in full:

Think of the marvels we can achieve if we simply set free the dreams of our people.
Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us are not too much to hope.
American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream.
Millions lifted from welfare to work is not too much to expect.
And streets where mothers are safe from fear — schools where children learn in peace — and jobs where Americans prosper and grow — are not too much to ask.

Okay, so it was kind of mixed up with welfare, crime and jobs, but at least it was there: one reference to medical innovation, and one reference to space travel.

Boom! Done and done.

Clean Tech Jobs For Military Veterans

As for jobs, two complementary federal agencies — the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency — were important drivers of clean tech innovation under the Obama Administration.

The culmination of that interaction was the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which compels states to transition into innovative energy technologies.

Helping to drive that transition is the US Department of Defense, which has become an important market for alternative energy and related fields including energy efficiency, electric vehicles and smart grids.

This all adds up to job creation, and the clean tech field is looking to military veterans to help fill those employment opportunities.

Both the wind and solar industries have established robust veterans’ hiring programs, and in 2015 the Department of Energy launched a new job training initiative that provides active duty military with solar job training, so they can hit the ground running as soon as they leave the service.

The US Office of Naval Research has also recently established a new internship program that enables military veterans to return to work for the Department of Defense in clean tech fields. Here’s the rundown from ONR:

“43% of veterans indicate their military specialization was STEM related. With a well documented shortage in qualified candidates in the U.S. STEM workforce, “Veterans with STEM military work experience, paired with a degree, are better prepared to start contributing to  a job at a higher level than recent graduates without military experience.”

It would be great to keep this job engine chugging along. However, the Trump Administration has proposed massive cuts for the EPA. The Energy Department’s Office of Science could also face cuts along with other civilian science offices.

The EPA and Energy Department cuts are designed to pay for a massive increase in spending for the Department of Defense.

No word yet on which DoD programs are set for acceleration, but considering past history military, clean tech programs will need a strong advocate in their corner, or they’ll be left out in the cold.

Image (screenshot): Solar Ready Vets via US Department of Energy.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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