It’s been a year marked by both successes and challenges. The great debates we’ve engaged in throughout 2012, on climate change, green jobs, renewable energy, manufacturing and transportation, have set up for some big things to come for next year.
We can finally point to some good news on the economy. After 32 consecutive months of private sector job growth more people are getting back to work. The comeback of the American auto industry is helping facilitate that growth. This year automakers, labor groups and environmental groups helped broker a historic agreement raising fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars by 2025. This important move is projected to create up to 570,000 American jobs by 2030 by saving money on fuel and building the cars of the future here in America.
Next year we hope to see even better safeguards on vehicle pollution. A stronger “Tier 3” air quality standard will reduce pollution from transportation fuels. Combined with the 54.5 mpg program, this will help promote innovation in the automotive sector and create jobs producing cleaner fuels in America’s refining industry.
Taking another step forward for cleaner air, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed limits to greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants and California adopted its landmark cap-and-trade law. Signatures from local unions and union groups in support of the standard representing over 240,000 union workers were gathered by the BlueGreen Alliance and sent to the EPA in support of the proposed standard. Next year this rule needs to be finalized.
This year, Hurricane Sandy caused billions in damages and devastated homes and businesses in New York and New Jersey. It was a rude awakening that revealed dangerous weaknesses in our transportation and infrastructure and also led to a call for action on climate change. Senator Barbara Boxer recently signaled willingness from Capitol Hill to act on climate change. President Obama also expressed a need to act on climate change and said it will be among his top priorities during his second term. Rumored to be the next Secretary of State, Senator Kerry’s strong record on climate change would likewise make strides in elevating this issue. Americans are truly ready for big, bold action on climate change in 2013.
Working to counter the effects of climate change, the shift over to more renewable energy is helping to diversify our energy supply and create thousands of new jobs across the country. Often-touted wind energy is enduring severe cutbacks this year as a result of the expiring Production Tax Credit. If this credit does not get extended immediately, more devastating cutbacks in direct wind industry jobs and indirect jobs in manufacturing and construction will take place. On the bright side, offshore wind shows tremendous potential to be up and running next year. However, projects along the Atlantic Coast including a project by Fisherman’s Energy in New Jersey and the Block Island Offshore Wind Farm in Rhode Island and Cape Wind in Massachusetts are leading the way and closest to seeing turbines in the water.
This year has not been without its share of hurdles to overcome, but there’s progress even in overcoming those hurdles. Henry Kaiser, the engineer, businessman, and entrepreneur whose shipyards in Oakland built a battleship a day in World War II, who designed and built the Hoover Dam, and who left his name on one of the largest healthcare companies in the country, once said, “Problems are just opportunities in work clothes.”
This year the track for success has been laid out on so many important issues and the conversations on the more difficult are happening now or will happen over the coming year. Americans and the economy are sturdy and resilient and have shown that they want to build on the progress we’ve already made – onto 2013!