U.S. Falling Behind in Green Jobs Growth
by The Electrical Worker, Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 08:58:30 AM EST
Throughout the 2008 election season, we were told that the green-energy economy would put our economy back on the road to recovery by creating tens of thousands of new jobs in wind, solar and other non-polluting energy sectors.
But more than one year later, the promise of a green recovery is looking more and more elusive, says Steven Greenhouse from the New York Times.
Growth in clean energy industries and in green jobs has been considerably slower and bumpier than anticipated, industry experts say.
Last week, the Gamesa wind turbine plant in western Pennsylvania announced it was laying off nearly half of its 280 workers. Last month, General Electric said it would close a solar panel factory in Delaware, while Evergreen Solar, which received $58 million in state aid to build a 900-employee plant northwest of Boston, said it would move some assembly to China, costing 250 jobs.
The result, according to Greenhouse, is that the United States is likely to install just one-eighth as much solar power as Germany, while China will soon surpass the U.S. as world leader in wind energy growth.
The problem, according to many industry experts, is that compared with other highly-industrialized nations, the U.S. government is dragging its feet when it comes to supporting polices and investments that would really grow our domestic renewable power industry.
Said Michael Peck, director of external affairs for Gamesa USA, a Spanish-owned company that has two wind turbine factories in Pennsylvania:
The renewable energy industry in the U.S. is an underdeveloped developing industry. Manufacturers, developers, utilities, financiers -- they don't see the legislative pieces that they're all hoping for to help the industry move forward.
Phyllis Cuttino, a director of the Pew Charitable Trust's Environmental Group, agrees:
(I)f we don't have the policies in place to make investment here a sure thing, then we could potentially lose to other countries ... They have policies to take a lot of projects to scale, and that's what missing in the United States.
One country that has substantially loosened its purse strings to give their clean-energy sector a boost is China.
China's Export-Import Bank signed a $2.9 billion deal to boost exports of China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation, an energy-efficiency and renewable-energy project developer.
China ... has taken steps to boost its domestic clean-energy manufacturing capacity, heavily subsidized its domestic clean-energy deployment, and is now ramping up support for clean-energy exports.
Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, told Greenhouse that 80 percent of the entire cost of factory and worker training for the solar industry is paid for by the government, causing many green power advocates and union members in the U.S. to wonder why their government isn't doing the same.
For International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Edwin D. Hill, who was one of the attendees at President Obama's recent jobs summit, green power still could lead to a renaissance of domestic manufacturing, putting Americans to work building parts for wind turbines and solar farms, but only if Congress makes a commitment to support it though financial assistance and fair trade regulations to make sure parts are made in America:
Our political leaders need to decide if they are ready to do what it takes to promote clean-energy technology. We need a serious financial commitment from federal and state authorities to help the industry get off the ground and new trade policies that will encourage the growth of domestic green manufacturing.
Tags: china, Fair Trade, free trade, Gamesa, green jobs, IBEW, jobs summit, manufacturing, New York Times, renewable energy, Solar Energy Industries Association, stimulus money, wind turbines (all tags)