Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Green Prosperity: Creating Pathways out of Poverty

Reducing poverty by investing in green energy.

Can a clean energy economy benefit low income people?

A new study prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) University of Massachusetts, Amherst states that an investment of $150 billion per year in the green economy will create 1.7 million net new jobs.

This investment in green jobs is seven times more than the number of employment opportunities that would be created if the spending was earmarked for the fossil fuel sector.

Of special note to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Green For All, who commissioned the study entitled, Green Prosperity: How Clean-Energy Policies Can Fight Poverty and Raise Living Standards in the United States is that clean energy investment job opportunities reach across all education and skill levels and help create pathways out of poverty. Approximately 870,000 of the newly available jobs would be accessible to workers with high school degrees or less and result in a one percent drop in the unemployment rate.

Opportunities For All
In building a green energy program the living standards of 78 million Americans would be improved. The three-pronged approach to this program should focus on: expanding employment opportunities; building retrofits; and public transportation.

The study uses wind energy as an example of new employment opportunities that cross all skill levels. "wind farms create jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers, among many others. Some of these workers will have received some college education, while other occupations will require less formal education. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting requires roofers, insulators and architects — again, jobs that entail different levels of formal educational requirements. Expanding mass transit systems employs civil engineers, electricians, dispatchers and bus drivers."

Training and Infrastructure
Jobs created by clean-energy investments should also offer training programs to assist in career advancement. Newly employed low-income workers will see new opportunities to lift themselves and their families out of poverty and raise earnings by about 2 percent. Energy efficiency retrofits for living accommodations and infrastructure improvements in public transportation would also represent a 10 percent reduction in total expenditures for these families.

The study also debunks the misconception that green policies are detrimental to the poor. The authors write, "We show that, to the contrary, with effective policies in place, investing in clean energy can provide significant new opportunities at all levels of the U.S. economy, and especially for families who are poor or near-poor."

By focusing on: increased energy efficiency; lowering the cost of renewable energy and; limiting fossil fuel pollution the study believes that within a generation the United States can transform from a fossil-fuel driven economy into a clean-energy economy.

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