Jobs at issue as labor-enviro coalitions stump for climate bill (New York Times)


The Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, is launching a media blitz aimed at promoting passage of legislation its members hope will boost domestic renewable energy and create "green" jobs and services.

"America must end its dependence on foreign oil and create good jobs, but 70 percent of clean-energy technologies are manufactured overseas," the alliance says in a 30-second television ad slated to run next week in Ohio. "As Congress debates investing in clean energy, which could create 1 million manufacturing jobs, the question is, where will those jobs be?"

The alliance, whose endorsers include the Sierra Club and AFL-CIO, is lobbying Congress to include language in either a climate or energy bill this session that provides loans and grants to U.S. manufacturing companies to "retool" their factories to make everything from wind turbines for the prairie to insulated glass for buildings.

The "Apollo Green Manufacturing Plan" that the group released yesterday also calls for tying federal support to manufacturers' ability to meet labor's and "Made in America" content standards. The plan also calls for a presidential "clean energy manufacturing" task force and federal support to streamline clean-energy component supply chains.

"We're calling for stable investments in the manufacturing sector and tying those to domestic jobs," said Kate Gordon, the alliance's co-director. "There are 4,000 parts in a wind turbine. We want those parts made here."

The Apollo Alliance does not suggest a dollar amount nor a jobs target in its plan. But Gordon estimated that the "Green Jobs and Infrastructure Act," introduced by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in January, would create 1 million direct manufacturing and indirect jobs via $50 billion in loan guarantees.

The Stabenow-Brown bill has not gained traction on Capitol Hill, Gordon conceded, so she would like to see similar language added to a climate or energy bill. The Blue Green Alliance, which helped craft the Apollo Alliance's plan, is also taking to the airwaves in support of a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill.

The 30-second ads, which were co-funded by the Environmental Defense Fund and United Steelworkers, ends with the tagline "carbon caps = hard hats" (E&ENews PM, April 14).

Draft legislation from House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) would cap U.S. emissions at 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050. The bill would also create a national renewable electricity standard that reaches 25 percent by 2025, energy efficiency programs and emissions standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

Waxman will host the first hearing on his bill next week, and he wants to complete the committee's markup on the legislation by Memorial Day. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is mulling her own climate bill, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) has introduced a trio of bills that would cap U.S. emissions, fund home energy audits and improvements, and create a "green bank" to fund renewable energy projects.

"We have a moment where a climate bill is actually being discussed seriously in Washington," Gordon said. "There hasn't been this much momentum before."

How many jobs?

The labor and environmental groups could have an ally in the White House.

President Obama supports a cap-and-trade plan that cuts emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases 83 percent by 2050. Auctioning carbon allowances to polluters could raise more than $150 billion over a decade to offset higher energy costs and invest in clean-energy jobs and technologies, according to administration officials.

"We can no longer delay putting a framework for a clean-energy economy in place," Obama said yesterday at Georgetown University. "If businesses and entrepreneurs know today that we are closing this carbon pollution loophole, they will start investing in clean energy now."

Obama has claimed that the $787 billion economic stimulus bill he signed into law in February will save or create 3.5 million jobs. He expects that many of the jobs will come from weatherizing homes, retrofitting inefficient buildings and expanding the nation's electricity grid to accommodate new wind- and solar-power projects.

But a recent study by researchers at Spain's King Juan Carlos University questions whether "green jobs" are worth the public investments. Author Gabriel Calzada Alvarez uses Spain's investments in such jobs during the past decade as a case study.

Alvarez noted that, since 2000, Spain has spent about $752,520 to create each "green" job, including subsidies of more than $1.3 million per wind industry job. Alvarez posits that the programs creating those jobs resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy.

Applying the Spanish experience to the United States, Alvarez estimated that the "U.S. should expect a job loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created."

Environmental and labor coalitions are armed with studies and statistics of their own.

A study by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which is allied with United Steelworkers, estimated that roughly 18,000 jobs would be created for every $1 billion of spending on transportation, energy, water and school infrastructure. Utilizing 100 percent domestically produced materials for such projects would yield 77,000 additional jobs nationally, according to the study (Greenwire, Feb. 25).

Business groups view such projections with green eyeshades.

"One of the chief concerns the business community has is any climate proposal we adopt runs the risk of pushing U.S. jobs overseas," said Matt Letourneau, a spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Obama's newly appointed green-jobs adviser, Van Jones, dismisses critics who say capping carbon will cost jobs and "tank" the economy.

"When you actually look at the drafts of legislation circulating around Congress, all of them are attentive to these concerns," Jones said during an energy speech in Washington last week. "There's a smart way to do this, where people below a certain income get rebates to offset costs. You can go to the tax code to make sure certain costs are offset.

"Here's the dumb answer: Do nothing."