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Jobs, Wind, Solar, Natural Gas, Kerry, Boxer, Carbon and the Obstructionists

October 26th, 2009 · No Comments · Economics, Jobs, Politics, Science & Technology

We need jobs and we need them soon. We have about 15.1 million people unemployed, with jobs falling now at the (slowing) rate of about 200,000 per month. That’s almost one out of ten people unemployed and more than that if you consider those who would like full-time employment but have been in part-time employment for a long time.

The stimulus thus far has created something like 750,000 jobs. Those were construction jobs, jobs in non-teacher education jobs, rebuilding infrastructure, plus police, firemen, teachers and nurses who would otherwise have been laid off by the state. All these jobs have stabilized the economy. As you will see, alternative energy is not pie in the sky. We know what kinds of jobs are coming, how many and how much they pay.

One small example is engineers. We anticipate, based on current activity that we will need 33,000 engineers over the next couple of years to work on construction of wind farms, solar areas and connections to the energy grid. These are jobs paying $60,000 and more. This does not include mechanical and electrical engineers involved in all areas of transportation. Transportation is already undergoing conversion in many areas to natural gas and hydrogen. Where? In fleets that go relatively predictable distances, like village, town and city public service vehicles.

Billions of dollars invested in wind, solar and other technologies are raising the predictions for energy jobs. Current projects show that in the recession energy job availabilities are outpacing other employment by about 52% in new jobs to 14% for standard industry, construction, etc. In other words, the alternative energy business is underway, with employment growing at about a third or more faster than other jobs.

General Electric says that it anticipates a demand for 116,000 jobs just from wind over the next several years. The total number of jobs will be in the range of 300,000 in the four or five years depending upon private investment, which should accelerate. And there are good reasons that it should.

The increase in wind energy has been dramatic. Capacity increased by 50% in 2008 with a record 8300 megawatts added, enough to power 2 million homes. Thanks to the Stimulus plan the third quarter of 2009 has topped the second quarter of 2009 and also the third quarter of 2008. But the total will not surpass 2008 because of the economic slowdown and the lack of private investment. But it will still be growing rapidly with completed projects by the end of the third quarter adding over 5800 megawatts to the energy pool by the end of 2009.

Natural gas has not been in the forefront of current discussions but it is very important. We know now, as we did not in previous attempts to wean ourselves off oil, that the natural gas supplies in this country are, indeed, substantial. Natural gas is clean energy, and it is a bridge resource, with supplies able to last decades, especially as the faster we bring electric vehicles and alternatives for buildings on line. As soon as we can agree on a price for carbon emission, CO2, we will be able to develop more stable development and investment in these technologies. Investors need to know that we are going set a price on energy so that they will know how much they can make on a megawatt or a unit of solar power.

If you liked the comments of that greedy, old, right wing, oilman, T. Boone Pickens, as I did—then you like the idea that we are moving forward in this bill to get rid of foreign oil, use our own resources….wind, solar, natural gas, hydrogen and geothermal…to power the country with electricity and other alternative sources. All these things are going to create new industries. And take us off oil from people who do not like us at all.

Senator John Kerry and Senator Barbara Boxer have sponsored a new piece of legislation in the Senate, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. This will do two things. First, it will start to rearrange our priorities and start us on the road to clean, but more importantly, renewable energy. It will enable government investment in research and development of clean energy sources. It will help to advance private industry by establishing the rules of the road for alternative energy production and pricing.

How many jobs are we talking about? Over the next twenty year so, probably 4 million. In the short run, probably 300,000 in the next couple of years. But those jobs will create more jobs, in technical support positions and in related businesses.

Not all these jobs are hi-tech and not all these jobs are in building new products or technologies. Right now we have many technologies that can be used in conservation. One o the most surprising things in all the research done on new jobs for green energy projects is that fully 57% of them will be in repair, renewal and retrofitting existing buildings with energy saving devices. This will be a huge industry because very efficient products are now being developed; many are already in use, that demonstrate that alternative energy is cost-effective.

Some energy installation is technical. This will require skilled technicians who understand mechanical installation. These are people who are comfortable with the details of making mechanical connections, wiring, welds and electronic components. These are jobs in the $45,000 to $60,000 range. Certainly with the projected national and state plans for retrofitting there will be a need for at least 60,000 technicians of this kind from government as well as private companies.

Of course the attack dogs, (male and female variety) are out, worrying that middle class Americans might make a living. Michelle Malkin has attacked Senator Debbie Stabenow who is a strong supporter of alternative energy manufacturing, some of which research and development is being done in her state’s universities. She also knows the subject because of Detroit’s involvement with the electric car, now over ten years. She called Senator Stabenow “stupid” and wondered who would play her on Saturday Night Live.

Michelle Malkin also attacked Republican Senator Lindsey Graham for having the temerity to use his own judgment that wind, solar, natural gas and other alternative energy sources are vital to our future. All he did was say that he might be for clean energy if it included subsidies for nuclear energy, and oil drilling. Hello! That’s hardly a Liberal Left posture as neither of those two…government subsidies to multi-billion-dollar nuclear or oil companies…is in the plan.

Republicans are voting against it. Calling it “cap and trade,” making “cap and trade” their mantra, trying to create the image that it will raise taxes and ruin the country. Who is behind this? Oil companies. Nuclear power companies. The former because they don’t want to lose their grip on the American consumer and the latter because they have a lot of big time Neoconservatives, from Texas and Oklahoma and New Mexico and the old South who want their money. And they will exchange campaign funds for government subsidies which would be thousands of times greater, much more complicated for the government to get out of, and paid for by…you and me.

By the way, nuclear has the fewest number of jobs of all the clean energy sources. That is of course until there is a meltdown. Then everyone who doesn’t light up at night may be an employee just to clean up what’s left of a fifty-mile radius.

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