What a difference a weekend makes. As Friday came to a close, Senators John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman were expected to finally roll out their long-awaited bipartisan climate and clean energy bill on Monday, April 26. Then, as of Monday morning, the roll-out had been cancelled with Senator Graham threatening to pull his support for the bill due to his frustration over immigration reform taking priority on the Senate calendar.
Despite all the maneuvering going on beneath the surface of the clean energy bill drama, one thing is clear: If the Senate climate and clean energy bill doesn't move forward soon, our country will miss out on a momentous opportunity--not only to save our planet from the most severe impacts of climate change, but also to create millions of clean energy jobs and jumpstart America's economic recovery.
We cannot lose sight of the job-creation potential of the climate and clean energy bill. The United States is still suffering from a 9.7 percent unemployment rate, not counting the people who have given up looking for work, which means that 15 million Americans are ready to rejoin the U.S. workforce. Our domestic manufacturing sector has lost nearly 6 million jobs over the past decade, including 2.7 million since the recession started. A comprehensive national clean energy policy that includes investments to help U.S. manufacturers retool to enter clean energy supply chains can reverse that trend and revive our dormant economy by putting millions back to work in a new generation of quality clean energy jobs.
The climate and clean energy bill is the one solution that can address both our climate crisis and our jobs crisis. A June 2009 study by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Center for American Progress found that the clean energy investments that would be generated by the House climate and clean energy bill that was passed in June 2009 combined with the clean energy provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would lead to the creation of approximately 1.7 million jobs. Another study, published in October 2009, carried out by researchers at the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, found that comprehensive federal clean energy and climate policies would create as many as 1.9 million new jobs nationally.
States Leading the Way
Several states--including California, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, to name a few--have sent a clear signal to the business community that they are set to embrace cleaner technologies. Not surprisingly, these states have seen the number of clean energy jobs grow far faster than overall jobs. For example, California's decades-long commitment to forward-thinking energy policies has caused clean energy job growth to outpace overall job creation in the state by a rate of almost 3 to 1 since 1995. A study released in December 2009 by Collaborative Economics and Next 10 showed that even during the economic crisis, clean energy jobs in California grew 5 percent between 2007 and 2008 while total jobs dropped 1 percent.
In addition to job creation, lawmakers must also consider the competitive position of the United States in the growing global clean energy economy. The U.S. has already fallen behind in the global race to capture clean energy manufacturing jobs, due in large part to our failure to adopt federal climate and clean energy policies that create demand for and invest in clean energy equipment like solar panels, wind turbines, and electric car batteries. If the Senate fails to approve clean energy legislation this year, we will continue to cede valuable manufacturing jobs to China and other countries as they cement their status as leaders of the new global clean energy industry.
American businesses, workers and our stagnant economy cannot afford another year or more without strong clean energy and climate measures. Senate leaders and the Obama administration should make it clear--as they did during the most critical moments of the healthcare debate--that providing jobs for our workers, reviving our economy, and taking control of America's energy future is their top priority.