The latest unemployment figures were not at all positive – job creation was far below the level necessary to start getting a significant number of Americans back to work and the unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent, its highest level this year.
As the US economy continues to muddle along (as does that of many other Western nations), policymakers and business leaders should focus on investing in growth sectors. Clean or green energy is a key example of a field bursting with potential for economic growth. Timidity at the federal level, however, remains a hindrance, even as local governments and regional associations move forward to try to fight climate change and establish themselves as hubs in the green economy.
In a recent report, Sizing the Clean Economy, researchers at Brookings note the constrained potential of this sector: “The ‘green’ or ‘clean’ or low-carbon economy—defined as the sector of the economy that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit—remains at once a compelling aspiration and an enigma as the nation and its regions search for new sources of growth.”
Uncertainty about federal legislation regarding climate and energy issues, as well as the absence of federal standards for green energy are two key reasons clean energy in America remains an “enigma.”
The Brookings report notes that other nations are not approaching the field nearly as tentatively as the US: “China—which now produces half of the world’s wind turbine and solar modules—recently announced it would accelerate its “clean revolution” over the next five years and has set out aggressive growth plans for strategic emerging industries (SEIs) critical to economic restructuring, including multiple new energy categories, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency products.”
This finding is in line with a recent piece in Climate Progress, which reported last week on new figures showing that the industrialized world is quickly losing ground in the development of clean energy. In 2010, for the first time ever, spending in developing countries on green energy outpaced spending by wealthy countries ($72 billion and $70 billion, respectively).
It seems like it’s time to put ideological barriers aside on this issue. Even if some very small, but very vocal, minority still thinks climate change doesn’t exist, fossil fuels are finite and it’s clear that clean energy is a field that is going to drive economic growth in the next century. The US should try to get in on the action.