Green Business Could Become Economic Engine if Congress Sees the Light

The nonprofit Next 10 and Collaborative Economics report that green manufacturing jobs in California grew 19% between 1995 and 2008, while during this same period overall manufacturing jobs fell by 9%. In the first half of 2010, California green business attracted almost $3 billion in venture capital, making it the top state for green technology patents. In fact, between 2007-2009 over 450 patents for solar, wind and advanced battery technologies were registered in the state, far outpacing any previous two year period.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration released a report “Measuring the Green Economy” – a first step toward measuring the size and composition of the emerging green economy and the number of green jobs it’s created. The report found that green products and services contributed 1-2% of US GDP in 2007, with revenues between $370 and $516 billion. In 2009, there were 1.8 – 2.4 million green jobs, mostly in green services, not manufacturing. Energy efficiency, resource conservation and pollution control accounted for 80-90% of employment and revenue.

As further evidence that green business is becoming an economic engine, the launch of the first electric cars this year is already rippling beyond car manufacturers. To accommodate the anticipated growth in electric vehicles, Washington State’s Dept of Transportation is using a $1.32 million federal grant to turn Interstate 5 into the nation’s first “electric highway. There will be enough charging stations for EVs to travel the 276 miles from the Canadian border to the Oregon state line.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and North Dakota Farmers Union enrolled 8,000 producers on 11 million acres of land in a program that pays them for not tilling their land, among other carbon sequestration methods. The program demonstrates that farmers can profit by earning and selling carbon credits to buyers that need to reduce their carbon footprint. Those programs are shutting down now and farmers will return to plowing their land.

These are just a few examples of positive momentum building toward a green economy if Republicans aren’t able to unravel it. On the negative side, we’ve already seen some of the world’s largest solar and wind firms cut back on their commitment to the US because of our inability to pass energy and climate legislation.

The big question is, how can we overcome partisan politics and special interests, which are still intervening against society’s best interests?

Whether it’s climate change, peak oil, energy security, keeping the billions we spend on oil at home to grow our own economy, or competing with the likes of China for leadership in new industries, such as wind and solar, everyone can find a reason to support moving to a carbon neutral society.

It’s comforting that so many segments of society – and for the first time, the scientists themselves – are mobilizing to defend the transition to a green economy. But that’s just about convincing people that we must act against the looming threat of climate change.

The flip side is even more important – we must find a way to help people see, taste, feel the promise of a clean energy-based society. Only when individuals, businesses and politicians get excited about the future -and see it as in their best interest – we will be able to stop haggling and start progressing. The missing link continues to be a lack of a positive, compelling vision that we’re all working toward – a healthy, stable society that people can buy into and feel inspired by.

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