September 9, 2008 / 8:04 PM / 10 years ago

$100 billion could yield 2 million "green" jobs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A $100 billion U.S. government investment over two years could create 2 million “green” jobs in such industrial sectors as steel and construction, environmental and labor groups said on Tuesday.

The sun rises over a windmill farm in Palm Springs, California, November 27, 2005. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

“From the point of view of the steelworkers union, the view is quite simple, that a energy efficient green economy creates jobs and it can create jobs in America,” said Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers.

He said the U.S. move toward wind power has already prompted the reopening of two struggling steel mills, now making steel plate for use in new windmills.

Beyond that, the retrofitting of old, energy-inefficient buildings would create jobs for steelworkers, glassmakers and those who manufacture heating and cooling systems, Gerard said in a telephone briefing.

Gerard and others cited a report commissioned by the Center for American Progress think tank, assessing the benefits of the $100 billion investment plan.

John Podesta, president of the think tank and a former Clinton administration official, said $50 billion of the investment would be tax credits to help private businesses and homeowners pay to make their buildings more energy efficient; $46 billion would be in the form of direct government spending on retrofitting buildings, expanding mass transit and freight rail, making “smart” electrical grids and new investment in renewable energy; and $4 billion in federal loan guarantees.

To put the amount in perspective, Podesta said the April 2008 stimulus program cost $168 billion.

Many of the new jobs would be in construction, where some 800,000 jobs have been lost in the last two years, according to Robert Pollin of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

A report prepared by the institute and the think tank said this kind of rapid public and private investment would jump-start a U.S. economy with less emissions of carbon dioxide, a climate-warming greenhouse gas.

Pollin said the plan would create four times more jobs per dollar spent than spending the equivalent amount of money within the oil industry, and 20 percent more jobs than increasing spending on household consumption — the main target of the April 2008 stimulus package.

The green jobs plan would spur employment because it spends more on jobs and less on machines and supplies, Pollin said. As an example, he contrasted the cost of retrofitting a building to make it more energy efficient to the cost of moving oil from Saudi Arabia to the United States.

Also supporting the plan are Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, the union group Blue Green Alliance, the poverty-fighting Green for All organization, the New Jersey Work Environment Council and Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO labor group.

Editing by Eric Beech

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