"America's economy is facing pressure today from job losses, international competition, mounting national debt, and a declining dollar," Governor Rendell said during closing keynote remarks at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference in Pittsburgh.
"We can relieve these pressures by investing in clean and green energy efficiency and production technologies," said Rendell. "And, in doing so, we can help put our people back to work - especially in the manufacturing industry that has been so decimated by the outsourcing of jobs to overseas firms."
"Pennsylvania has been able to weather this slowdown because we've made the necessary investments in our economy over the last five years," said the governor. "We've invested in our infrastructure, helped train our workforce to meet 21st century demands, supported innovation and business expansion projects, and we've leveraged our resources to attract private sector development in the rapidly growing renewable energy industry."
"This formula has worked. Since 2003, we've helped create 3,000 new jobs in the alternative and renewable energy sectors - many of which are good-paying, skilled manufacturing positions - and $1 billion in private investment. Furthermore, our state's unemployment rate has been below the national average in each of the last 13 consecutive months."
Organized by the Blue Green Alliance, a strategic partnership between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, the conference is intended to launch a nationwide dialogue about moving the United States rapidly toward leadership in creating a new green economy.
This worker monitors equipment that turns waste into a chemical building block for environmentally-friendly products. (Photo courtesy NYSERDA)
The conference brought together local, state and federal policy makers; representatives of labor; business; environment and public health organizations; economic and workforce development specialists; investors; and scientists and technology experts.
On Thursday, United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard called on the union's environmental allies to join in supporting federal investments in renewable job growth.
In a statement delivered by his assistant, Marco Trbovich, Gerard said that climate change legislation now under consideration by Congress is flawed because in its current form it fails to require any significant improvements in the greenhouse gas emissions created by countries such as China, Brazil and India.
Proposed by Senators Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, and John Warner, a Virginia Republican, the bill would reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions from trading partners of the United States by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions.
But Gerard said that under those circumstances, corporations would have incentives to build more manufacturing facilities in countries without environmental regulations, unintentionally causing a spike in greenhouse gas emissions and costing thousands more manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and Canada.
"This flaw - this gaping loophole - would encourage energy intensive industries in the U.S. to move production to those locations where the environmental rules are lax - wiping out thousands more U.S. jobs in the process," Gerard said. "There could hardly be a worse example of good environmental intentions paving the road to an economic hell for millions of working Americans."
In contrast, Gerard urged "supplanting half-baked subsidies like the billions in giveaways to big oil with federal investments aimed at commercializing renewables, retrofitting entire communities and producing energy-efficient transportation on an industrial scale comparable to our efforts in World War II and the Apollo mission to reach the moon."
As the conference opened Thursday, a coalition of nonprofit environmental and economic research organizations from across the country headed by the Apollo Alliance released two new guides to help cities and states enhance opportunities in the clean, green, energy efficient job sectors.
The guide, "Green-Collar Jobs in America's Cities," was accompanied by a similar study and plan of action for state policy makers, "Greener Pathways."
According to both documents, a job qualifies as green collar if it provides high enough wages and good benefits to support a family, opportunity to advance and build a career, and reduces waste, pollution, and other environmental risks.
Among the green collar jobs that are gaining in number and popularity, said the studies, are machinists, technicians, service workers, equipment and installation specialists, construction workers, and managers of all kinds.
The business sectors seeking such employees span alternative transportation and fuels, green building and energy efficient retrofitting, as well as renewable energy production and installation.
"The movement to make American cities more sustainable, efficient and livable is perhaps the greatest new engine for urban economic growth, innovation, and job creation in decades," said Phil Angelides, chairman of the Apollo Alliance Board of Directors.
"A greener American economy can and will create jobs," said Joel Rogers, director of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, whose work in Milwaukee is profiled in the city guide.
Milwaukee, with the help of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, has organized a major project to retrofit residential, commercial, and institutional buildings in order to reduce energy consumption. Milwaukee Energy Efficiency, or Me2, is raising both public and private capital to finance the retrofit work. Building occupants pay back the funds through charges on their utility bills, and they will realize immediate savings from reduced energy costs.
"To make real progress on economic and workforce development in the new energy economy," Rogers said, "we must focus more carefully on key clean energy sectors and seize the opportunities in leading industries, like energy efficiency, wind, and biofuels."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.