Working Toward a Low-Carbon Economy

SOUTHERN MARYLAND - 9/12/2008

By Pete Hurrey

Construction and manufacturing jobs in Southern Maryland and elsewhere have disappeared at an alarming rate in recent years and may never recover as the economy struggles to stay afloat. The mortgage and housing crisis continues, and the price of fuel, although somewhat stable as of late, is still providing stimulus for an inflationary cycle of rising costs.

According to Jim Deal, an electrician in Calvert County, there is no construction work. The electrician is strugg
 

 Deal

ling to make ends meet. However, Deal has decided to change his fortunes the same way he did when he first started is own electrical contracting business 15 years before. “I have decided to convert my business’ focus to alternate and renewable energy for homes and businesses,” said Deal at a recent meeting of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.


Deal intends to install his own photo-voltaic system and to learn everything he can about practical applications for renewable and sustainable energy – solar and wind. “When people hook these up to their homes, they need an electrician,” said Deal. “They will need an electrician that knows how to do this properly so it will not damage the existing power grid already connected to their homes.”

It appears Deal may be on to something.

A recent proposal titled, Green Recovery – A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy, prepared by the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts-Amherst,  stated that with a $100 billion dollar investment, in a whirlwind green economic recovery program, the United States could begin the process of turning the national economy around. If the proposal works, PERI predicts an additional two million jobs will be created in the process – green color workers.

The focus of the two-year effort is on construction and manufacturing sectors. According
 

 Johnson

to MLCV event organizer, Pete Johnson,

"This new report shows that investing in clean energy is a win-win solution. Shifting to clean energy will put more people to work and revitalize our economy at a time when many Americans are hurting,”  said Pete Johnson, one of the MLCV event organizers.

The short-term $100 billion green economic recovery package as proposed by PERI would create up to four times more jobs than by allocating a similar investment in the current hydrocarbon oligarchy.

Of the jobs created, there would be three times the jobs created with wages in the $16 per hour plus range. This increase in jobs would reduce the unemployment rate 4.4 percent and energize a construction and manufacturing industry sorely in need of help.

The PERI plan adopts an aggressive position toward accelerating the U.S. adoption of clean energy. The green recovery plan focuses on six areas for energy investment. One is to begin the process of retooling existing buildings in order to improve energy efficiency.

The next area of investment is that of mass transit and freight rail in order to reduce the carbon footprint on highways. The third focused effort, according to the plan is to begin building a 'smart' electrical grid transmission system, and then to increase investment for wind, solar and next-generation biofuel-based power generation systems.

The PERI report shows that the vast majority of the two million jobs created would be the same type of jobs in which most people already work: ”Constructing wind farms creates jobs for sheet metal workers, machinists and truck drivers, among many others. Increasing the energy efficiency of buildings through retrofitting requires roofers, insulators and building inspectors. Expanding mass transit systems employs civil engineers, electricians and dispatchers.”

People like Deal realize that they have to do something to help themselves as traditional sources of income fade. By converting to a new, low-carbon economy that utilizes efficient and renewable energy, Deal more than helps himself. He helps the environment, something vital to Southern Maryland with its miles of sensitive shoreline and estuaries and may even help turn around a stagnant economy for everyone.