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Green sector could help spur job growth

By Matthew Slavin
Dolan Media Newswires

Portland, Ore. — The economic stimulus package passed earlier this year helped prevent a repeat of the Great Depression.

Companies seeking to return to profitability are engaged in widespread cost-cutting, mainly through layoffs. The unemployment rate is higher than 10 percent and is projected to rise into 2010. Unemployed, discouraged and part-time workers who can’t find full-time jobs exceed 17 percent of the U.S. labor force.

Layoffs will not pave the way to recovery. Recovery requires putting people back to work so that they have money to spend on housing and other goods and services. And the green-collar industry holds one of the keys to restarting the nation’s job-growth engine.

The job-creation potential of the green economy is immense.

Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas predicts the green sector could see “explosive growth” totaling up to 1.3 million new jobs per year by 2030. According to the 5 million jobs will be created if the U.S. generates 25 percent of its energy from renewable power by 2025.

Consulting firm Global Insight projects up to 4.2 million green jobs will be created in the U.S. by 2038. Half of these will be in high-paying science and engineering, legal, research and consulting fields. But the green economy also will create large numbers of jobs for low and semiskilled workers to perform work such as energy-efficiency retrofits and weatherization of commercial buildings and homes.

The bank bailout was supposed to open up lending windows to businesses and consumers. But this hasn’t happened; credit is being reduced or denied to all but the most blue-chip borrowers.

Creation of a national “Greenconomy Bank” could help ensure that our green business sector has the capital it needs for continued expansion and job creation. The bank would sell bonds with proceeds dedicated to paying for renewable energy projects, development of new technologies including advanced batteries and electric vehicles and the smart grid, and energy-saving improvements to homes and buildings. Oversight by an independent board would help insulate the bank from political interference.

Lending by a Greenconomy Bank would help reduce our carbon footprint in the fight against global warming and enhance national energy security by reducing our dependence upon imported fossil fuels. But first and foremost, it would help start putting Americans back to work.

Matt Slavin is president of Portland-based Sustainability Consulting Group.

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