Growth of area green jobs is undeniable in Missouri

In the wake of an election in which economic woes were at the top of Americans’ concerns, it is worth looking at what has worked to create jobs in Missouri over the last several years. During a time when most job growth has faltered, the growth of green jobs in Missouri has been a significant bright spot in communities across the state.

Green jobs are real in Missouri. They include ABB’s facility in Jefferson City manufacturing transformers for the wind industry; the Lost Creek wind farm in DeKalb County providing home-grown power; Exergonix’s just-announced plans to invest $135 million in a manufacturing facility for utility-size energy storage systems in Kansas City; and weatherization workers retrofitting homes across the state.

A new report from the Apollo Alliance shows that these success stories could become even more commonplace if the United States implemented strong clean energy and climate change policies. The “How to Keep Creating Clean Energy Jobs in Missouri” report finds that the right energy policies could create up to 88,000 jobs in Missouri by 2030, especially important given the current unemployment rate of 9.2 percent.

The right energy policies begin with a bill called the Investments for Manufacturing Progress and Clean Technology (IMPACT) Act, which would support domestic manufacturing of solar panels, wind turbines, electric cars and other clean energy products. The report estimates that passage of the bill would create between 40,000 and 50,000 jobs in Missouri over 10 years.

The report also looks at the jobs impact of a strong energy standard of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 (a strengthening of the current standard overwhelmingly passed by Missouri voters in 2008). It finds that with stronger domestic supply chains to ensure that American workers — rather than overseas workers — meet the new demand created by the improved standard, this policy could create up to 23,000 manufacturing jobs in Missouri by 2025.

Missouri has suffered from auto plant closures for years, but the report finds that improved vehicle efficiency standards paired with investments in domestic advanced vehicle manufacturing could create up to 6,000 new jobs in Missouri by 2020.

All those jobs are only in manufacturing. A cap on carbon emissions combined with strong energy-efficiency standards would create more than 7,000 more jobs by 2030, including building retrofitting.

One of the most promising aspects of clean energy is the great potential in manufacturing. Missouri has an experienced manufacturing workforce, and vacant facilities that could be retooled for clean energy production. Moreover, manufacturing jobs strengthen America’s middle class for the 68 percent of American workers without a college degree, paying 21 percent more than the average job.

While some pundits are predicting gridlock in this new political climate, some of these very policies already have bipartisan support. Republican Sen. Sam Brownback (soon to be Kansas governor) and New Mexico Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, citing the need for job creation, have collaborated on a renewable energy standard.

Additionally, Senators Bingaman and Harry Reid are expected to meet to discuss other energy bills that can be passed in the lame duck session: Home Star, electric vehicles, tax extenders and oil spill response legislation.

These are no substitute for the comprehensive climate and energy legislation we need, but they’re steps in the right direction. Missouri’s factories, businesses and workers cannot wait another year or longer to put Missourians back to work.

See the original post on KansasCity.com. By Joe Thomas & Dane Glueck. November 17, 2010.

Joe Thomas is Missouri coordinator for the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of environmental, business, labor and community groups that promotes clean energy. Dane Glueck is president of the trade group the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association and president of his own company, Straight Up Solar.