Weak Renewable Energy Laws Would Lose US Jobs to Asia, Europe


Photo via Time

The top wind power companies have united to warn Congress that setting a Renewable Energy Standard too low would mean surrendering a slew of US jobs to Europe and Asia. They've joined forces to counter the message put forth by coal, oil, and other business-as-usual energy companies--that passing climate legislation would cost America jobs and hurt the economy due to raised costs. Not so fast, say the renewable energy companies: if we don't pass strong renewable energy laws, then we'll lose ground to Europe and Asia--and countless green jobs in the process.A national Renewable Energy Standard--which would require utility companies to buy a certain amount of power from clean energy sources--was introduced in the Democrats' climate bill as requiring 25% of the nation's power to come from alternative sources by 2025. Now, in efforts to compromise and to cut big business a break in a tough economy, it's reportedly been cut to as low as 12%. Which means less commitment to developing technology, less funding, and yes, less green jobs. And it means we'd fall way behind Europe and Asia, where more serious RES commitments are kicking the clean energy industry into high gear.

The companies' CEOs drafted a letter to Congress explaining how slighting renewable energy would be dangerous to the US economy. From the letter:

"We are concerned that the significantly lower renewable targets currently being discussed, as compared to proposals from President Obama, Chairman Bingaman and Chairman Markey, will severely blunt the signal for companies like ours that manufacture turbines and components to invest billions of dollars to expand production and our workforces in the U.S."

They argue that the US renewable energy industry needs a shot in the arm to stay competitive, not what amounts to limp encouragement. Letter continues:
"We are concerned that the significantly lower renewable targets currently being discussed, as compared to proposals from President Obama, Chairman Bingaman and Chairman Markey, will severely blunt the signal for companies like ours that manufacture turbines and components to invest billions of dollars to expand production and our workforces in the U.S
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And finally, they get to the ultimate point: if the standard is raised high enough, we'll lose major ground to the booming industries in Europe--and soon, to Asia.
"America is on the verge of losing the wind manufacturing industry to Asia and Europe. There is significant international trade in wind turbines and the competition to host this industry is intense. America trails its competition in passing stable renewable energy policy commitments. Thirty-seven other countries have firm commitments."

It makes sense--by passing a strict renewable energy standard now, we may effectively strangle some of the coal companies in coming years. But that's kind of the point--what gets left out of the equation is exactly what the wind power companies point out: we'd be gaining plenty of jobs as that happened. And in fact, we'd be losing jobs down the line if we don't take action, as coal inevitably gets phased out by legislation or depleting resources and overseas renewable industries take over the majority of the manufacturing jobs.

So it looks like there's a showdown a-comin', between the massive, entrenched coal conglomerates and the new wave of clean energy companies--and it could get ugly.

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Tags: Carbon Emissions | Congress | Economics | Global Warming Solutions | Green Jobs | Renewable Energy