Seven of the top seventeen states with the most rapid growth in greentech, according to a new study, are considered swing states in the upcoming presidential election.
Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs by DBL Investors’ Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar argues that greentech could help determine which way the U.S. electorate leans on November 6.
“Cleantech jobs are real and growing,” Pfund told GTM. “The fact that they have become a political football in Washington has no bearing on what’s going on on the ground all over our nation.”
In the nation’s capital, the report notes, greentech is a partisan issue. Though Republicans from Richard Nixon to Arnold Schwarzenegger have championed the environment, their party today has adopted a dismissive stance toward the issue and has chosen to leave it to the Democratic Party.
In his stump speeches, Republican nominee Mitt Romney reportedly has mocked President Obama for spending billions on green jobs, saying it “might actually hurt employment more than it helps it,” asking crowds if they “have seen those jobs anywhere.”
“But the fact that red states have some of the fastest-growing cleantech numbers is proof that this is a vital economic tool and not just talk-show rhetoric,” Pfund said.
The study notes that:
- Of the ten states where green jobs are growing the most quickly, only two can be considered traditionally Democratic;
- Of the states where green jobs make up the biggest portion of the workforce, only three (and the District of Columbia) are Democratic; and
- Of the states with the most aggressive greentech pushes, many are led by Republican governors who are leaders of their party, governors like Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, Kansas’s Sam Brownback, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, and Texas’s Rick Perry.
“Governors did not get the memo that cleantech is controversial,” Pfund said. “They have figured out, Republican or Democrat, that cleantech is a generator of jobs.”
Except in the halls of Congress, the study reports, greentech “is almost universally appreciated” as an “engine for economic growth” and a source of “high-quality jobs” that both revives communities and wins voter support.
Before using partisan rhetoric that limits or ignores greentech, Pfund and Lazar warn in the study, those running for office should take notice of the fact that green jobs are widely held by people who can cast crucial votes. Greentech is “not merely the idle dreaming of a small group of partisan activists and insiders, but a source of livelihood for millions of Americans, literally in all parts of the country. What’s more, their numbers are growing every day.”
They study reports two other noteworthy sets of numbers:
- The states with the most green jobs are usually those with the biggest populations. Coal provides a total of 136,000 jobs. California, Texas and New York all have more green jobs. Pennsylvania and Illinois round out the top five.
- Solar is growing jobs at ten times the rate of the overall economy and, of the states with the fastest growth in the percent of green jobs in their workforces, four are largely Republican (Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska) and four are swing states (New Mexico, North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado).
Pfund and Lazar say the three key policies that the politicians in D.C. need to provide to the nation’s greentech engine are: 1) an extended and slowly phased-out federal investment tax credit (ITC); 2) a legislative path to Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) for renewables; and 3) a long-term extension of wind energy's federal production tax credit (PTC).
“Our country has created incentives for new energy transitions since its founding,” Pfund said. “It has worked well for a couple of centuries and there is no reason to stop it now. Traditional energies already enjoy substantial subsidies.”
The study uses the definition of green jobs from a landmark 2011 Brookings Institution survey as those intended to “reduce the environmental impacts of the economy.”
That definition was the foundation of the new U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics definition which singled out those jobs “that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources,” as well as those that “involve making their establishment's production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.”
In communities where utility-scale renewables developers promise green jobs, they immediately face the criticism expressed in a recent editorial by the Libertarian Reason Foundation’s Julian Morris. “Once the solar plant is complete and the 1,000 or so construction jobs are terminated,” Morris wrote of BrightSource Energy’s 370-megawatt solar power plant being built in California’s Mojave Desert,“there will be just 86 permanent jobs at the plant.”
“No one criticizes when the next skyscraper goes up in some city,” Pfund answered. “That’s a construction job. These large solar plants take quite a long time to build, so the construction jobs there are not just flash-in-the-pan jobs. There are many of them, they can last over a period of years and that trained workforce can go to work on the next plant.”
In distributed solar, she added, “if you start as an installer at a fast-growing solar company, you can be promoted and end up managing a crew. A whole exciting career path is becoming available to folks in that sector that didn’t exist even three years ago.”