ACELA: Jobs-generating express

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has pulled our country back from the edge of severe economic crisis, but additional actions are needed to create jobs across the economy. We have got to do more.

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To create jobs, Congress should pass the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (ACELA).  This energy bill, which was passed out of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources with strong bipartisan support, is also a jobs bill.

ACELA not only will increase our energy security and transform our energy infrastructure to a modern, clean and efficient one, but it also will position the United States to lead in the development of clean energy technologies — a rapidly growing industrial sector that I believe will be one of the most important of this century. It also would make our economy stronger by enabling businesses to flourish in other areas of the economy.

Without this investment, our nation runs the risk of these industries and technologies continuing to be built overseas, where other nations provide market conditions (both demand- and supply-side) that are better for innovative, clean energy technologies. 

The Center for American Progress has found that there is the potential to increase the number of permanent jobs in America related just to clean energy by 1.7 million. ACELA is a down payment on achieving that job target, and it could start creating those jobs today.

It’s important to know that these jobs are for all workers — electricians, construction workers, engineers, scientists and others — and are distributed throughout all sectors of our economy, from IT to manufacturing to small business. The National Commission on Energy Policy estimates that the country will need 400,000 new jobs in the electricity sector alone. If indirect jobs are included, the number of new jobs created could grow to 1.5 million. 

How does ACELA do this? By leveraging the strength of American innovation and our nation’s vibrant private sector.

ACELA creates jobs by increasing the domestic demand for renewable energy and spurring the establishment of new manufacturing plants for renewable technologies through a Renewable Electricity Standard.

ACELA creates jobs by establishing the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA), making sure that those with the know-how and vision for clean energy can acquire the necessary financing for the construction of new clean power plants and factories. CEDA will combine the technological expertise of the Department of Energy with a new, and independently overseen, cadre of business professionals who can craft the financial support that entrepreneurs need to negotiate the gap between demonstrating a new technology and having a commercially proven product that can be manufactured and constructed in the United States.

 ACELA creates jobs by investing in and providing financing for energy efficiency retrofits for homes and commercial buildings — enabling homeowners and small-business owners to buy more efficient appliances, insulation, and other energy efficient products and services to lower their energy bills and increase their bottom line. This provision alone could rapidly create as many as 880,000 jobs over the next two years in the U.S. construction, manufacturing and retail sectors.

Finally, ACELA creates jobs by helping American manufacturers transition to new clean energy industries and improve energy efficiency in manufacturing. Reducing energy usage means reducing the cost of doing business, which will make U.S. businesses more competitive in the global market while allowing them to expand and create jobs here at home.

Here is a concrete example of how forward-thinking energy legislation like ACELA creates jobs for middle class Americans: This fall, the Department of Energy awarded Fisker Automotive a $529 million loan through a program that was created by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Shortly afterward, Fisker announced that it will reopen a shuttered GM plant in Delaware and use it to build a plug-in hybrid car. The new Fisker plant will employ 2,000 people, and indirectly create another 3,000 jobs in the surrounding area. So, not only will American consumers benefit from increased choices in energy efficient automobiles, but American workers will benefit from increased clean energy jobs.

The jobs we create as America transitions to a clean energy economy are not the total answer to our nation’s jobs needs in the coming years.

But they are an important part of the answer. And the job-creating proposals in ACELA reflect the ingenuity and input of both Republican and Democratic members of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. I will be urging my colleagues to support ACELA when the opportunity arises on the Senate floor — not just for what it will do to meet our energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also for what it will do to create jobs and put our economy on a growth track in future years.

Bingaman is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.