Clean Energy Act will create job opportunities

Middletown Journal - July 23, 2009

by Wendy Patton, in The Middletown Journal

“This is a moment to create jobs in America.” 

One after another, the federal representatives spoke about climate change from the floor of the House, where they were engaged in an historic debate over the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.”

The debate over the past three months has clarified the issues raised in their speeches. We heard that an increase in global warming portends strife and suffering on an unimaginable scale. We heard that the Department of Defense is deeply concerned about the potential for conflict and about our dependence on foreign oil. And we heard the hope and hunger and fears about jobs in a new clean energy economy.

It’s about clean energy, about energy independence, but most of all, it’s about jobs.

Recently, several members of the Ohio congressional delegation, including Representatives Space and Boccieri, took a major step toward capturing clean energy markets for Ohio production. They inserted into the climate proposal the language from Senator Brown’s “Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act of 2009. This would provide $30 billion in capital and technical assistance for firms retooling for clean energy markets and energy efficiency. With this, the climate proposal becomes a commitment to rebuild our manufacturing base.

Ohio is a place that has borne the brunt of industrial transformation.

Since 1970, Ohio’s manufacturing jobs have vanished by the hundreds of thousands. Shuttered plants litter the landscape. From Youngstown to Dayton, highway exchanges that once took thousands to work are now roads to nowhere. A climate change proposal, with provisions to help manufacturers gain access to capital and measures to address fair trade, is Ohio’s best chance to turn this around.

The manufacturing provision will provide $15 billion each year in 2010 and 2011 for small and medium sized manufacturers to retool and upgrade their facilities. When was the last time the federal government invested in the industrial base to create American jobs? Our elected representatives have created an opportunity Ohio needs to seize.

Policy Matters Ohio convenes the Ohio Apollo Alliance, which promotes the Green Manufacturing Action Program, to ensure clean energy jobs come to American firms. The key parts of the GreenMAP, like the amendment

Space and Boccieri supported, includes the following elements:

• Direct federal funding for manufacturers to retool their facilities and retrain their workers to develop, produce and commercialize clean energy technologies.
• Domestic content and labor standards to ensure that firms receiving federal support create jobs that pay a family-supporting wage here at home.
• Increased funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership to expand its role in strengthening the clean energy supply chain.
• Increased funding for the Green Jobs Act to retrain workers for new green jobs.
• A presidential task force on clean energy manufacturing to make production of clean energy systems and components a national priority.

In our 2005 report on job potential of renewable energy “Generating Energy, Generating Jobs,” Policy Matters Ohio demonstrated that Ohio could garner more green jobs than 47 other states given domestic commitment to renewable energy and a set of policies that support domestic manufacturing. Ohio can be a winner because of the unique structure of our industrial base: dense networks of upstream and downstream suppliers in close proximity to research and development facilities, supporting logistics, financiers with a history in new market development, a well-trained work force and strong post-secondary training facilities.

Last year was a brutal one for Ohio workers. We need new jobs and reinvestment. For that reason, our lawmakers must seize the opportunity presented in the climate change discussions.

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