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BlueGreen Alliance Digs for New Jobs, But Breaks Little New Ground

One day before President Obama presents his latest plan to spur job creation to the country, BlueGreen Alliance released a blueprint of its own.

The coalition of 10 labor unions and four environmental advocacy organizations calls for plenty of new infrastructure projects, but the plan, called Jobs21!, breaks little new ground itself.

Instead, it relies heavily on public subsidies and tax credits meant to leverage private investment in the clean energy economy, to increase building energy efficiency, support new transportation technology and infrastructure. The goal is to get private companies to spend some of the almost $2 trillion in cash reserves they're sitting on, the group said.

These programs and policies work, according to David Foster, BlueGreen Alliance's executive director. From long-term extensions of existing temporary tax credits, such as one for renewable energy generation to investments in manufacturing and technology first introduced in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), public spending during the recession resulted in $3 of private investment for every $1 in public funds, Foster said.

"These programs proved they can attract private investment, unlike deficit cutting," Foster said today during a conference call with reporters. "The president did it right once."

At the top of the group's list is re-tooling the nation's manufacturing sector. BlueGreen Alliance listed its top priorities in a letter to the President (PDF), released in conjunction with the Jobs21! plan. It calls for an expansion of the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Credit, which provides a 30 percent credit for investments in new, expanded or re-equipped advanced energy manufacturing projects. The group's plan predicts 58,000 jobs would be created for a $2.3 billion investment if this credit was extended and turned into a grant program.

Other manufacturing elements of the Jobs21! plan include a block-grant program aimed at small- and medium-sized manufacturers in areas of high unemployment to help them re-tool and increase efficiency, and a revolving loan fund with the same goal. That could create 680,000 manufacturing jobs and 1.9 million additional jobs over five years, according to BlueGreen Alliance.

Even those who care about cutting the deficit should see the wisdom of re-authorizing the Surface Transportation Act, said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, a member of BlueGreen Alliance. Money, labor and materials for massive transportation infrastructure projects are cheap right now, he said. The six-year, $550-billion re-authorization bill could result in 7.7 million jobs, according to BlueGreen Alliance.

Re-building the nation's supply chain -- specifically for clean energy manufacturing and next-generation transportation technology -- is vital, said Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers international president. The Jobs21! plan addresses this need in part by calling for the creation of a "green bank." BlueGreen Alliance says this would be a consistent funding source that provides seed money for clean energy projects that could be matched at a 10-1 ratio by private investment.

"This is one of the most promising tools to let us build new infrastructure when it's cheap and enjoy it when the economy is back on its feet," Pope said.

Although it comes close on the heels of news that the president ordered a delay to new emissions regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, regulations receive very little attention in the Jobs21! plan. Indeed, the co-chairs of the BlueGreen Alliance seem not interested in the topic at all, as it relates to job creation anyway.

"I don't think [tomorrow's speech] should be about regulations," Pope said. "It should be about jobs. I won't mind at all if he never mentions the word regulation."

Image CC licensed by Flickr user marc falardeau.

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