Climate bill backers pick up jobs theme

Backers of climate-change legislation are making an extra push to link clean energy with job growth as the administration and congressional Democrats look for ways to lower unemployment.

One group released a study on Thursday that found mandating more renewable energy use, a provision included in climate legislation in Congress, would create thousands of jobs.

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The study, conducted by Navigant Consulting for the Renewable Electricity Standard Alliance, said a renewable electricity standard (RES) that required 25 percent of electricity come from renewable sources like wind and solar power would create 274,000 jobs.

The RES-Alliance is a group of businesses and trade groups in support of a renewable energy mandate.

Clean energy advocates say a cap on carbon, plus tax breaks and other incentives for renewable energy development, would create even more jobs.

“Congress has an opportunity to spur additional job creation and put Americans back to work by completing their work on a comprehensive clean energy and climate policy that will create nearly 2 million jobs here in America,” said David Di Martino, a spokesman for Clean Energy Works, a coalition that supports climate legislation. 

The Blue Green Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, wrote senators on Monday to urge that “comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation remains at the top of the Senate agenda in coming weeks.”

“The ambitious policies found in comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation can help our economy struggle to regain its footing,” leaders from the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, United Steelworkers, Service Employees International Union and others wrote.

With the unemployment rate still hovering around 10 percent, environmentalists and businesses that favor climate legislation say they are revisiting the theme that the climate and energy bill could provide a boost to the economy.

“That is our big card,” said Marchant Wentworth, a lobbyist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It is the quickest, easiest way to create jobs that there is.”

The UCS study released on Friday found that an RES would lower electric and natural gas costs by $113 billion.

The Third Way, a left-leaning public policy think tank, next week will send Congress a list of 23 clean energy proposals that would lead to job growth.

Josh Freed, who directs Third Way’s clean energy initiative, said clean energy should be viewed as a “cornerstone of long-term economic growth.”

The recommendations will include passing a climate bill, increasing federal spending on energy research and development, and establishing a federal fund that invests in clean energy technologies.

“A carbon price is a critical component, but it’s only one of the tools in the basket,” Freed said.

He said the global clean energy market is growing at a rate of $1 trillion a year.

The Labor Department on Friday reported unemployment fell to 9.7 percent in January from 10 percent in December. Some analysts had expected greater job growth.

A jobs bill from Senate Democrats is likely to include a “cash for caulkers” program to promote energy-efficiency programs and other clean energy efforts.