Green Jobs and Green Prosperity

This report, titled"Green Prosperity: How Clean-Energy Policies Can Fight Poverty and Raise Living Standards in the United States," was developed Green for All, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the University of Massachusetts' Political Economy Research Institute. The report explores how investments in energy efficiency, clean technology and public transportation can raise the standard of living for everyone in the United States.

From the executive summary:

The United States today faces a formidable generation-long challenge: to transform the economy from being driven primarily by fossil fuel sources of energy, which are the major cause of global climate change, to becoming an economy that can function effectively through renewable energy sources and by achieving high levels of energy efficiency.

The project of building a clean-energy economy will become a powerful engine of expanding employment opportunities throughout the U.S. economy. According to a study that PERI recently completed with the Center for American Progress (CAP),1 clean-energy investments at the level of about $150 billion per year -- i.e. around one percent of U.S. GDP -- can generate about 1.7 million net new jobs throughout the U.S. economy.

This level of annual new clean-energy investments in the U.S. will be strongly encouraged through the combination of direct government spending, along with the subsidies and incentives for private business investors that would result from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the February 2009 Obama stimulus program) and the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA -- the Waxman-Markey bill) now being debated in Congress. Within this strongly supportive policy framework, the advance of clean-energy technologies will accelerate and markets supporting these technologies will mature. This will create a selfreinforcing dynamic of rising private-sector cleanenergy investment opportunities, which in turn will mean expanding job opportunities.

The building of a clean-energy economy in the United States can also serve another purpose: to create new ‘pathways out of poverty’ for the 78 million people in this country (roughly 25 percent of the population) who are presently poor or near-poor, and raise living standards more generally for low-income people in the United States. How the project of building a clean-energy economy can benefit lowincome people in the U.S. is the focus of this study.

In the discussions that follow, we examine how investments in clean energy -- including energy efficiency measures such as residential and commercial building retrofits, public transportation and a smart grid electrical transmission system, along with renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass power -- create major new employment opportunities in comparison with spending equivalent amounts of money within the traditional fossil fuel sectors, i.e. oil, natural gas and coal. We then assess the impact on low-income families of seeing their household energy bills go down as a result of investments in energy efficiency retrofits. We finally also consider how investments in improving public transportation systems can reduce transportation costs for low-income families.