Congressional inaction on key clean energy tax policies, coupled with attacks on state renewable energy programs, led to a dramatic decline in U.S. clean energy job announcements in the first quarter of this year, according to a report from Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).
E2 says about 5,600 clean energy and clean transportation jobs were announced in the first three months of this year, down from 12,000 such jobs reported in the comparable period in 2013.
A major geothermal project in Idaho accounted for the most clean energy jobs announced on the state level in the first quarter. Idaho was followed by more traditional clean energy leaders. The remaining states in the report's Top 10 were Texas, California, Missouri, New York, Kansas, Arizona, Hawaii, New Mexico and Louisiana.
E2 says that despite adding thousands of new jobs to the economy, the dramatic drop in clean energy and clean transportation job announcements in the quarter is a clear reflection of mixed signals U.S. businesses are getting from Capitol Hill and state legislators when it comes to policies such as the federal production tax credit (PTC) and various renewable portfolio standards (RPS).
‘Congress pulled the plug on smart clean energy tax policies at the end of last year, while in the states, lawmakers are getting bullied by special interests that don't want our country to produce more clean, renewable energy,’ comments E2 Executive Director Bob Keefe. ‘Guess who's suffering as a result? American workers and businesses.’
Keefe adds, ‘Given the muddied policy environment on clean energy, low overall jobs numbers were expected. Fortunately, it's not too late for lawmakers to steer clean energy and clean transportation job growth back on track."
According to E2, three main opportunities exist in the coming weeks and months:
Federal Tax Policy: If Congress acts now to reinstate on a long-term basis incentives like the PTC for wind, as well as other tax credits for biofuels and energy efficiency, E2 says lawmakers would have an immediate, positive impact on clean energy job growth. The longer incentives remain expired, however, the more U.S. workers will be left twisting in the wind.
Carbon Pollution Standards: In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to unveil standards for existing power plants that will for the first time limit carbon pollution, just like the EPA has limits on other pollutants like mercury and arsenic. E2 says these new carbon limits pave the way for manufacturing and power-generation companies in clean energy and energy efficiency sectors to invest in operations and add jobs.
State RPS Policies: On the state level, one of the biggest opportunities to defend or strengthen job-creating clean energy policies is in Ohio, where state lawmakers and Gov. Rob Kasich have the power to stop S.B.310. By freezing efficiency and renewable energy targets, S.B.310 threatens a state manufacturing base that ranks first nationally in wind manufacturing facilities, according to E2. The group's report also notes state RPS policies have recently been attacked in other states. In Kansas, for example, some lawmakers pushed to repeal the state's clean energy law this year but ultimately failed.
‘If we want to keep creating good-paying clean energy jobs in America, our elected officials need to do their jobs first," says Keefe. "They need to support these smart policies that will help our economy while also helping our environment."