Revive Manufacturing with Green Jobs

The United States needs a "green industrial revolution" to breath new life into American manufacturing and bring back from overseas badly needed manufacturing jobs, experts told progressive activists at today’s opening session of the "Take Back the American Dream" conference in Washington, DC.

Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance of American Manufacturing (AAM) told the special session—“Stop Outsourcing the Dream: How America Can Revive Manufacturing in a Green Industrial Revolution”—that the nation has lost 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, mostly to China, shuttering 50,000 factories.

For those who say we don’t need a strong manufacturing industry, he explained that innovation—the type of innovation that can fuel green jobs growth—comes from manufacturing, so we lost that, too. Paul said that 90 percent of patents and 70 percent of private research and development come out of production, "We have to have production or lose innovation."

United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard outlined several key elements for a green jobs formula including:
  • a national energy conservation initiative;
  • retrofitting buildings;
  • modernize and rebuilding America’s energy grid; and
  • strong domestic-content requirements in renewable energy for our military needs.

Gerard said you don’t create real wealth by flipping coupons or hamburgers, "you create it by taking real things and turning them into things of value."

And those things of value are turned into other things of value and all of a sudden you have a wind turbine with thousands of parts made here. You can’t have a clean economy without good jobs and can’t have good jobs without a clean economy.

Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it’s easy to figure out what to do because we have seen this play out in countries that have lapped us in manufacturing and creating clean, green jobs. That shows us what works, he said.

He said other nations identify a quickly developing manufacturing market and capture the seedlings of it before it takes full root. Renewable energy is at top of the list because it will create millions of jobs, so the U.S. needs a small public subsidy to create the market demand that creates manufacturing capacity.

As industries begin to take hold in other countries, every month we don’t play catch up is another month we’ll never get that capacity back.

By Dave Johnson, a fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future.