WIND ENERGY JOB GROWTH ISN'T BLOWING ANYONE AWAY
February 3, 2010
America's wind energy industry enjoyed a banner year in 2009, thanks largely to tax credits and other incentives packed into the $787-billion economic stimulus bill. But even though a record 10,000 megawatts of new generating capacity came on line, few jobs were created overall and wind power manufacturing employment, in particular, fell, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Obama has long pitched green jobs, especially in the energy, transportation and manufacturing fields, as a prescription for long-term, stable employment and a prosperous middle class. But those jobs have been slow to materialize, especially skilled, good-paying, blue-collar jobs such as assembling wind turbines, retrofitting homes to use less energy and working on solar panels in the desert, says the Times:
- On the campaign trail, Obama promised to create some 5 million green jobs over a decade.
- The stimulus bill approved last year allocated billions of dollars to the clean-energy sector.
- And the president continued to set high expectations for green-job creation in last week's State of the Union speech.
- Administration officials admit that they are nowhere near that pace; last month, government economists released their first tally of clean-energy jobs created or saved by the stimulus: 52,000.
Several factors accounted for the slow start, some of them linked to weakness in the overall economy:
- Electric power demand fell nationwide last year.
- Electricity from coal and natural gas is still by and large cheaper than wind or solar power.
- Renewable energy companies, faced with limited demand, often used parts and equipment in stock or imported renewable technology instead of building turbines or solar cells domestically.
- Uncertainties in federal energy policy that include questions about when or whether existing tax breaks will expire and whether the Senate will pass a climate bill that would make fossil fuels more expensive -- and renewable energy more competitive.
Clean-energy leaders and many outside analysts added that green companies won't begin hiring in large numbers until the federal government mandates renewable power consumption nationwide and dramatically upgrades the nation's electric grid. According to Elizabeth Salerno, director of data and analysis for the wind industry trade group, "wind turbine manufacturers need more certainty to add shifts and factories in the United States."
Source: Jim Tankersley, "Wind energy job growth isn't blowing anyone away," Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2010.
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