September 13, 2011 | Climate Change, Energy Policy, Sustainability + Energy

Green is gone

Remember when “green was green?” When mainstream consumers and multinational corporations discovered that environmental stewardship was also fiscally responsible? When going green was a lucrative business strategy?

Those heady days are now passed. After weathering the worst recession in generations and a sluggish economic recovery, green is out of favor. Obama’s recent announcement on smog regulations reflects that sentiment.  Last week the President asked the EPA to roll back new smog standards, kneeling to Republican pressure to eliminate several regulations that, the GOP claims, are to blame for the lackluster economy.

In response, the President of the American Petroleum Institute, a key backer of this move, claimed: “EPA’s proposal would have prevented the very job creation that President Obama has identified as his top priority.”

False forced choice: jobs OR regulation

Does Obama really agree with this falsehood? That environmental protection and economic growth are mutually exclusive? It’s hard to tell. On energy and the environment, Obama has sent mixed messages. Last spring he announced a Clean Energy Standard (CES) of 80% by 2035 but his energy plan was full of subsidies for fossil fuels.

Companies in the renewable energy sector have known for a while that environmental protection does, in no way, come at the expense of job creation. It’s quite the opposite; renewable energy represents the future of our economy. By the end of 2010, the U.S. wind industry supported 75,000 jobs at over 400 manufacturing facilities nationwide.

Governors see clearly

Thankfully our nation’s Governors recognize the economic opportunity of wind energy. On August 24, a coalition of 24 Governors from both parties and all regions of the U.S. sent a letter to the Administration asking for a more favorable business climate for the development of wind energy. Specifically they asked for a seven-year extension of the Production Tax Credit and the Investment Tax Credit which expire at the end of 2012. Over the past 30 years, these credits have been extended for one to four years at a time, or allowed to expire, leading to the boom and bust cycle of the wind industry. During this same time, the wind industry in Europe, and now China, has flourished with top turbine manufacturers and developers creating thousands of jobs overseas.

Regulating smog equals jobs

If the Obama Administration is looking to create jobs, they need look no further than the wind industry. A seven-year extension of the PTC would provide the long-term certainty for manufacturers to invest in the U.S. and create jobs. The Governors know that it’s through investment and consistent policy we will grow jobs. Slashing regulations that continue to give the polluters an unfair advantage, leaves us all worse off.