Obama’s push for clean energy jobs

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama stated that “jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010. … People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help.”

Obama also stated that “providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future” because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. Community college offerings in Illinois indicate a major effort is already under way to implement that economy.

It is far from a settled question, however, as to which nation will lead the global economy. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, reminds us that “the enormous damage done to the U.S. economy by jobs offshoring, work visas, and financial deregulation cannot be offset by government stimulus plans, which expand the debt burdens that are crushing Americans.”

Barry Lynn in his book The End of the Line reminds us that the global economy creates and distributes wealth, producing results beyond the control of the business and government interests that designed it. While the short-term interests of global businesses increase their profitability, they also increase the vulnerability of the entire economic system, and undermine the government’s responsibility to monitor and manage the economy for the sake of the common good. Obama’s call for redirecting tax breaks given to firms that offshore their business to those that invest in American jobs could reduce some of these vulnerabilities.

Obama’s priorities include building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants, opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development, and continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. Some environmental groups that supported Obama’s presidential bid have expressed dismay at these priorities.

A new report by The Climate Group and The University of Michigan estimates that climate and energy policies could create up to “100,000 new jobs in the Midwest, … generate additional market revenues up to $12 billion” and boost state and local tax revenues more than $800 million by 2015. With a comprehensive climate and energy policy, the Midwest manufacturing base could gain significant benefits from producing many low-carbon technologies vital to America’s economic future.

According to the report, the Midwest would benefit from manufacturing wind turbines, hybrid power trains and advanced batteries. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) sees the report as giving a “huge boost [to] our economy…accelerate investment in the low-carbon technologies that will rejuvenate the industrial Midwest, put our people back to work and ensure the Midwest remains globally competitive.” The report bears further scrutiny.

Such a focus represents the “real” economy, which provides workers and their employees with wages and profits to buy the goods they produce.

Some have suggested the next Obama stimulus package should focus on local food production as it reduces unemployment while increasing food security. A study published in The Huffington Post Jan. 25 found that a 20 percent shift of retail food spending in Detroit to locally-grown foods would create 5,000 jobs and increase local output by a half-billion dollars. Of course, a local food program need not wait for federal funds.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Feb. 3-9, 2010 issue.

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