- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

The nation’s green jobs market has “explosive” growth potential, outpacing overall job growth 9.1 percent to 3.7 percent over a 10-year span, a new research report on the “clean energy economy” released by the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington has found.

The study, which looked at job growth and tracked venture capital investments found so-called green job growth had surpassed traditional job growth in 38 states and the District from 1998 to 2007. The clean-energy economy, Pew said, now accounts for 770,000 jobs at more than 68,000 businesses across the nation.

“These jobs are driving economic growth and environmental sustainability at a time when America needs both,” said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States, in releasing the new data Wednesday. “There is a potential competitive advantage for federal and state policy leaders who act now to spur jobs, business and investments in the clean energy sector.”

According to the group’s research, Oregon, Colorado and Tennessee have emerged as leaders in terms of the largest and fastest-growing jobs in the clean-energy sector nationwide. The Pew data takes into account how individual states and the District generate jobs and investment while expanding clean-energy production, efficiency and reducing or conserving natural resources. The decade’s worth of research is meant as a baseline and makes no projections about the future of a clean-energy economy, said Kil Huh of the Pew Center on the States and the director of the energy economy project.

Though states that have struggled economically, such as Michigan and Indiana, might have lost jobs overall, at least seven states and the District have gained employment opportunities in the green energy sector, Pew said. Virginia and Maryland, however, experienced the opposite as overall job increases exceeded clean-energy job growth.

While the Pew researchers expressed extreme optimism for the clean-energy market’s future potential, not everyone agrees that green jobs will save the economy.

Russell Harding, senior environmental policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan, said relying on the clean-energy sector to significantly stimulate the economy will do more harm than good.

“In my view, if their argument was really true, that these jobs are our economic salvation, why don’t we get some big wheels across the country and get people to turn them? That will create a lot of jobs,” Mr. Harding said. “Sure you’ll create jobs, but there’s overall inefficiency.”

Mr. Harding spent eight years as director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. He is not opposed to alternative energy but thinks nuclear- and hydro-energy sources are more sustainable.

“Environmentalism has become a modern secular religion for some folks - not all,” he said. “It takes on all the trappings of a religious argument. If you say global warming is not man-caused, you’re a denier. It’s all the trappings, arguments and hysteria from someone who was trying to make an emotional or religious appeal.

“I can’t think of any other country in the world that won’t use its own natural resources.”

The Pew report sought to the define clean-energy economy, noting that it “generates jobs, businesses and investments while expanding clean-energy production, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution and conserving water and other natural resources.”

The study found that this emerging sector has created new jobs across all skill levels and educations, from engineers to plumbers, generating incomes from $21,000 to $111,000.

Pew said venture capital investments in clean technology surpassed the $1 billion mark in 2005, hitting $12.6 billion by the end of 2008. Last year’s investments were a 48 percent increase over 2007. States are set to receive $85 billion from federal stimulus money in direct spending and tax incentives for energy and transportation-related programs, Pew said, noting that some are better positioned to take advantage of these investments. The money comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Twenty-three states have created regional incentive programs to reduce pollution from power plants, while 46 states offer some type of tax incentives geared to renewable energy use or for the adoption of energy efficiency systems or equipment, the Pew study said.

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