Stalling of Climate-Energy Bill Hurts Economy

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lttr_green_jobs.gifUtilities, energy businesses and clean tech companies have all taken a big hit with the stall of the Climate Bill in the Senate. Don't look for the favored immigration bill to create many jobs or boost innovation in technology or manufacturing.

The Wall Street Journal reported tonight that business leaders from energy, utility and clean tech sectors have protested Congress and the Obama administration's apparent decision to put an immigration bill ahead of a climate-clean energy bill in Congress. Some clean tech related stocks also lost market valuation today with this change of priorities.

The North American clean tech venture-funded market totaled about $3.4 billion in 2009, 62% of the global $5.6 billion market. Such investments are much more at risk if no action is taken on climate and energy in Congress, the likely result of immigration's new status at the top of the Congressional agenda.

The Wall Street Journal
quoted the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, "The U.S. faces a critical moment that will determine whether we will be able to unleash billions in energy investments or remain mired in the economic status quo."

So where are the jobs and financial gains from an immigration bill? How about law enforcement? There may be an uptick of enforcement personnel hired, particularly in the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. These jobs pay about $34-$39,000 on an annual basis and this agency has 19,000 jobs.

Border patrol jobs pay up to $50,000 and there are about 18,000 of these jobs. Let's say both those numbers of jobs double if immigration reform goes through Congress, with about 75,000 jobs, tops. Throw in an extra 50,000 jobs in other miscellaneous agencies or companies. So that's 125,000.

In contrast, clean tech's lowest earning jobs for those with a high school degree pay from $36,100 a year to $72,900 a year. Executive clean tech jobs can earn well over $200,000, with middle management opportunities for those with college degrees in the $60,000-$180,000 range.

The clean tech industry also is likely to produce far more jobs in sheer numbers. Last year, there were an estimated 770,000 clean tech jobs. These jobs are distributed across the nation (California, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas) whereas most immigration-related jobs are concentrated in southern border states (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, California only).

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla recently credited California's 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with encouraging innovation on the order of creating "ten Googles because of it."

So the move to the head of the queue in DC for immigration reform is obviously not about the economy. But shouldn't just about every major national initiative at least cast a sidelong glance at job-creation potential, especially if we want to continue on the road to recovery?

Then there are critical issues such air pollution, US lack of leadership in math and science, as well as national security implications from foreign energy dependence.

Our climate's abrupt change is, of course, also paramount, endangering health, the economy and the environment, on a global basis. 

Sounds like there are some seriously misplaced priorities inside the Beltway.

Warren Karlenzig is president of Common Current, an internationally active urban sustainability strategy consultancy. He is author of How Green is Your City? The SustainLane US City Rankings and a Fellow at the Post Carbon Institute.  

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About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Warren Karlenzig published on April 26, 2010 8:37 PM.

Climate Techno-optimist Vinod Khosla's California Dreaming was the previous entry in this blog.

Making the Cities of India More Sustainable is the next entry in this blog.

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