The following blog post is from Erin Bzymek, Press Secretary for the BlueGreen Alliance.
Here we are, at the culminating moment of months of debate on some of the most important issues of the day. Where we go from here on climate change, American manufacturing, energy, transportation policy and our infrastructure will undoubtedly shape the economy well beyond the next four years.
Economic indicators are finally beginning to show positive growth trends, rather than just occasional good news. Thirty-two consecutive months of private sector job growth along with third quarter real GDP growth up to 2% from 1.3% in the previous quarter are both nothing to scoff at. We’re at the tipping point however. Moving forward, we can either rev the engines of economic growth with policies like those in the Recovery Act or threaten to run out of gas.
To begin with, clean energy jobs have had a positive influence on the speed and expanse of the economic recovery. Solar and wind energy in particular have shown significant growth. The solar industry now employs 119,016 Americans up 13.2 percent in the total number of solar jobs from last year. The solar industry is growing 5.75 times faster than the economy as a whole.
Likewise, the wind industry has demonstrated significant growth over the past few years but Congress’s failure to renew the critical Production Tax Credit (PTC) threatens not only future growth in this economic sector but also thousands of existing jobs. In order to realize the full potential of the PTC’s benefits, both the Advanced Energy Project Credit (48C) and the Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind must also be up and running.
The success of the solar and wind industries has had a ripple effect across the economy. Made possible in part to meet the demand of the growing wind and solar industries and the auto recovery, growth in the manufacturing sector continues to gain momentum. Auto production is up and so are vehicle sales. Elsewhere in the world, manufacturing recently contracted slightly.
Capturing even more economic growth can’t depend only on increasing clean energy production; we must also look to investments that we should have already made. Cleaning up our aging water supply and related infrastructure and streamlining transportation systems both have tremendous potential to create thousands more jobs and provide necessary reinforcement to existing infrastructure. For example, investment in water infrastructure programs will create thousands of jobs through the replacement and upgrade of pipelines, treatment plants, storage tanks, and the installation of green infrastructure projects. In addition, the infrastructure that transports our energy needs to be updated to be more efficient, through smart grid and other technologies.
Overall we have made substantial gains in building a robust clean energy economy across the country, but in order to ensure America’s leadership and tradition of innovation there’s more work to be done. Looking ahead, increasing investments in transportation, manufacturing, or clean energy must be part of any economic growth equation.
Without a doubt, job growth in these important industries has strengthened the foundation of the economy over the past few years. Now we must continue to build on that foundation to put more people back to work and reinvest in America’s global competitiveness.