Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Green Jobs Revolution

Here's a fun read from Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo:
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt explain why retooling our carbon-based energy sector for clean growth can spur the kind of investment and job growth that we saw in the telecom industry after the market opening of the early 1990s.
Congressman Markey and FCC Chairman Hundt compare the benefits we can achieve now from passing bold climate change and clean energy legislation to the benefits America reaped from passing 1990's legislation that lead to revolutions in telecom products and services:
In the ten years that followed the spectrum auctions that created competition in digital cellular and the regulatory framework that opened Internet access to competition and the telephone network to innovation - 1997 to 2007 - investors, according to McKinsey and Company, poured more than $850 billion in new capital into mobile, data, and expanded cable networks in the United States.

This investment drove job creation beyond any economist's prediction. Unemployment fell to 4 percent by the end of 1990s, and nearly 65 percent of the population was employed. That's a remarkable contrast to the numbers today: 9.7 percent of Americans are unemployed and only 58 percent of people are employed. The job growth led to national income growth and increased tax revenue, so that the federal budget, contrary to every estimate at the beginning of the 90s, was balanced by 1998.

We can get the same upside surprises if we pass a law that retools the carbon-based energy sector of the last century and encourages private investment in a 21st century energy economy built on alternatives such as wind, sun, biomass and geothermal. That's the purpose of the Waxman-Markey bill, which passed the House of Representatives last June.

Reform in communications stimulated creative destruction. For example, the old long distance industry charged ten cents a minute for a call when we passed the Telecommunications Act. Now people are not even aware that there used to be a long distance charge when they use their phones to call anywhere.

The replacement of the old networks with the new led to waves of innovation. Our reforms permitted everyone to unplug the phone line from the back of the telephone and stick it into the back of the computer. That connection was the first pathway to the World Wide Web - in large part because we did not permit the telephone company to charge extra money for all that extra and unpredicted use. The new demand for data connections drove telephone companies to buy routers and switches, to build data centers, and to upgrade lines. Cable companies were driven to respond by switching some of their capacity from one-way video programs to high speed two-way internet access, giving rise to broadband. In response, the phone companies are now installing fiber, taking broadband to new levels of speed and lower price per bit.

Similarly, in the energy sector we need to retool the existing generation and distribution networks with cleaner forms of generation, open markets to innovators who will build power lines that lose fewer electrons and connect new sources of clean power to users, and reward investors for installing more efficient ways of using electricity. Creating the right framework for our communications networks led investors to commit about $850 billion to rebuild those networks. With the right set of policies, it is reasonable expect a similar explosion of private sector investment in the energy sector. This will result in consumers paying less for heating, cooling and lighting, and America's energy sector will be firmly based on abundant, cheap and clean fuels. Nothing will pull innovation into the energy sector more than wind farms demanding better storage technology, solar farms demanding better ways of capturing and converting sunlight into electricity, and appliances and electric vehicles that can talk to the grid if it is smart enough.

There are other areas of the economy where Americans can and should find new jobs. In the energy sector we not only will need millions of employees, but we also know that those millions will help us achieve independence from foreign oil and an end to the pollution of the environment from carbon emissions. The trifecta of huge employment, national security, and protection of the environment is a winning ticket for America. We have found that winning formula before in hard times that proved to be the dawn of economic growth; we can turn the dark days of the present into sunny optimism about our future once again.
Superb piece -- they've clearly got their messaging down on the importance of passing bold climate change and clean energy legislation.  Note to the Senate: let's make it happen, already!

Kudos for TMP for bringing us this kind of high quality content, which is worthy of the op-ed pages of the world's finest newspapers.

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:52 PM

    Consider the Connection to:
    The Economic Pyramid

    Our economy rest on a base of natural resources, we can not remove the top from the
    Conservation is the wise-use, management, and
    development of the Earths natural resources
    Conservation is needed at all levels of the
    Economic Pyramid
    www.facebook.com Jerry Lee Mayeux PROFILE-INFO-PHOTOS