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Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

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Investing in the New Economy

Posted: 02/ 8/2012 11:11 am

Our country is built on the promise that anyone can come up with an idea that changes the world. We've seen it time and again, a subtle improvement or a whole new creation that captures the world's imagination -- spawning new industries -- from Facebook to the iPhone to the clean energy revolution.

Investing gives individuals and institutions the opportunity to tap into the growth potential of these companies and industries, while giving them access to needed capital. It's how the system works.

Unfortunately, one of the largest investors in America isn't investing as much as it could: America itself. Partisan politics fueled by Big Oil donations have tied the government's hands when it should be making smart investments with returns that reduce our national debt, build new businesses and spur innovation.

There's no better place to be investing right now than in renewable energy.

The American solar industry has seen triple-digit growth for the past two years. In 2010, wind power generation accounted for 26 percent of all new energy production. And this is in the midst of the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Imagine you were given $1,000 to invest. Would you invest in a business that increases air pollution and asthma rates among children, or one that decreases pollution? Would you invest in a business that is dependent on extracting a limited and increasingly hard to find resource, or one that taps into infinite resources and leverages innovation for future growth?

You would probably invest in the fastest growing sector of the global economy, clean energy.

But some in government, like Congressman Darrell Issa, see things differently. He is trying to take down our country's fastest growing industry by dismantling green jobs training programs. Training programs signed into law by George W. Bush -- programs that are preparing American workers for our new economy.

Not shockingly, some of Issa's biggest contributors are named Chevron, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.

New industries require training -- training that new businesses don't have time or money to invest in. Again, take training for green jobs. Our solar and wind industries are growing at a rapid clip, but they are facing stiff international competition, in which still-young businesses are trying to compete. Investments in training are an ideal role for government -- a low-cost, effective way to build human infrastructure that can be leveraged by growing businesses and industries. And in a recession, investing in training programs just makes sense. Laid off workers are trying to add skills that will help them transition to good jobs. But they don't have money.

Green jobs pay higher, are more available to those with only a high school degree -- and are growing faster than jobs in the rest of the economy. It's a smart sector in which to invest.

There are currently 85,000 Americans working in the wind industry and more than 100,00 are working in solar. Nearly 50 percent of solar companies recently surveyed said they are expecting to add jobs in 2012. But, they need American workers prepared for these jobs.

How the American economy is powered in 100 years is a choice we make now. It was investments made by the American government that helped create the Internet, the tool that powers our information economy, the tool that created an enormous explosion of private sector wealth in the 1990s. Private capital leveraging public investment for the broader good of the country. We've seen it work. The difference? The Internet didn't face opposition from an industry hell-bent on preserving its economic dominance.

The renewable sector is the most entrepreneurial in America. It deserves robust investment -- needs it, in order to compete in the global marketplace with heavily subsidized firms in China and Europe. Both Europe and China are subsidizing because they have recognized that the clean energy race is a race for a super charged economy and super-power status.

This is no moment for timidity. It's a moment to celebrate and dive deep into a system that built our nation -- a system that prizes innovation, rewards investment, and gives every American the opportunity to succeed.

We need government on the side of American workers, not polluters.

That's an ideal worth investing in.

Help Keep America First ask your elected officials to invest in infrastructure & clean energy -- not handouts to Big Oil! Sign the petition.

 

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