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July 29 — Clean energy advocates see opportunities for job growth under a Clinton administration following the close of the Democratic convention.
Increased investment in the rapidly growing clean energy sector solves several problems at once—from environmental pollution to jobs, they said. Clinton and others have realized “that transitioning our energy system to clean energy is really one of the biggest economic catalysts we’ve ever seen,” Bob Keefe, an adviser to the NRDC Action Fund and executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), told Bloomberg BNA.
The American Petroleum Institute, however, said the fossil fuel industry has significant job creation benefits and public support, and Louis Finkel, its executive vice president, has publicly called the Democratic platform's approach to energy “a missed opportunity.”
These comments followed the close of the Democratic National Convention on July 28, where Democrats solidified a starkly different approach to energy than that of the Republicans and their nominee, Donald Trump. Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and supports boosting domestic coal production.
In Clinton’s speech July 28 accepting the nomination for president, she highlighted the significant difference between Trump’s views and hers on climate change. Climate change is real, and the nation doesn’t have to make a choice between addressing it responsibility and boosting the economy, she said.
The way to do both is to increase clean energy jobs, Clinton said. If elected, Clinton said, in her first 100 days as president she would work “with both parties to pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II” and pointed to clean energy jobs as part of that package.
Those statements are backed by the Democratic Party. In its 2016 platform, Democrats touted their commitment to boosting clean energy jobs in the section on combating climate change but also listed “Creating Good-Paying Clean Energy Jobs” as one its six subheads under its broader job creation section.
Those clean energy jobs are in clean energy, high-tech products, internet technology products, advanced manufacturing and vehicles and energy efficiency sectors, the platform said. The party also would prioritize training and hiring individuals from communities overburdened with pollution for the jobs of expanding clean energy, energy efficiency, and resilient infrastructure, it said.
The clean energy sector has been expanding. More than 2.5 million people work in clean energy jobs, and much of that growth has occurred over the last eight to 10 years, according to a March 2016 Environmental Entrepreneurs report based on federal data. The Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate agreement and tax credits for wind and solar help provide a need and certainty for the clean energy sector to continue adding workers and expanding, the E2 report said.
Trade associations representing renewable resources and battery storage were supportive of more federal investment in clean energy jobs, as it would benefit members of their industries.
“We are encouraged that the [Democratic] party platform expresses clear support for these goals,” Matt Roberts, executive director of the Energy Storage Association, told Bloomberg BNA July 29.
Environmentalists also said it was significant that clean energy was being highlighted so prominently.
Increasing clean energy and clean energy jobs can solve multiple problems in an efficient manner—boosting jobs, cutting pollution and saving folks money, they said. That has played out in states with the strongest clean energy policies, Keefe said.
“If Hillary Clinton is elected president, she’s going to assume office with several significant challenges to face,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, told Bloomberg BNA. “The potential of an infrastructure bill is that if it’s designed well, it can help address several problems at once.”
Not everyone expressed support. The American Petroleum Institute referred Bloomberg BNA to its July 28 statement on Clinton's address accepting the Democratic Party nomination, a statement where its president, Jack Gerard, touted the benefits of fossil fuel energy production.
Americans had increased disposable income due to increased energy production, and women and minorities are expected to occupy “an exceptional number of the nearly 1.9 million jobs” expected for fossil fuel-related industries by 2035, he said.
“The production of energy resources holds great promise for our nation when it comes to creating jobs and benefitting consumers,” Gerard said in the statement. “Americans understand that pro-growth energy policies will create jobs and shrink the income inequality gap and it’s up to our nation’s leaders to follow the will of the American people.”
Federal funds could be particularly helpful and help create jobs in clean energy research and development, such as strengthening the electricity grid or the “biggest holy grail”—storage technology, Keefe said.
Investing in energy efficiency for homes, buildings and factories is another example, Brune said. It is one of the best opportunities to create jobs in communities that people live in and that pay off in the long run through energy cost savings and environmental improvements, he said.
Cecil Corbin-Mark, deputy director for WE ACT for Environmental Justice, told Bloomberg BNA there is also a need to invest and prioritize investment in the “front-line communities” that have born the brunt of much of dirty energy infrastructure.
“If we are really talking about putting America to work for everyone, we have to focus our proposals on the places where we have the most intense problems,” Corbin-Mark said, adding that this isn't a partisan issue.
The training and hiring provision of the Democratic platform also would meet a need, Keefe said. Employers often have more jobs than trained and skilled workers, he said.
For example, the solar industry has benefited from millions of dollars of funding from the Obama administration, ranging from funding and resources to support solar job training for military veterans to financing programs for solar panels in low-income communities to research and development to lower the prices of photovoltaic panels.
“We have had great success thus far working with the federal government on programs, such as the SunShot Initiative, that support expanding access and enhancing the growth of solar energy across the United States,” Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association, told Bloomberg BNA July 29.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at firstname.lastname@example.org
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