What the Election Means for Green Jobs

Thu, 2010-11-04 10:31

So the mid term elections are over and the Republicans have taken over the house and picked up a bunch of seats in the Senate. This probably means the next two years will be different than the last two with some good news and some bad news along the way. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.


Cap-and-trade is dead, climate change will not be a serious issue for a long time to come, and the fossil fuels (think oil and coal) industries will continue to receive billions in subsidies for the foreseeable future. The new speaker of the House of Representatives believes that climate change is bunk and is nothing more than a job killer – great!

Also, bad news is the fact that President Obama has all but abandoned any serious attempt at new environmental legislation. That is unfortunate. I believe in as little government regulation as possible, except when it comes to the environment. Additionally, I think that businesses understand that some regulation is necessary but we want as much certainty as possible. Instead, we've had lots of uncertainty for the last few years. Does a utility build a new coal power plant now that may require expensive scrubbers or a carbon sequestration in a few years? Does a manufacturer expand capacity which may increase their emissions – oh, wait, I’ll just build it overseas and not even deal with this mess in the US.


California voters also re-elected the Democrat Barbara Boxer to the Senate and returned a very eco-friendly Democrat, Jerry Brown, to the governor’s office — both strong supporters of state and federal action on climate change. California voters also defeated proposition 23 which was an oil industry initiative to roll back California’s greenhouse gas emissions laws. Phew, at least California will keep pushing forward. Side Note: Proposition 23 fractured the business world. On one side, high tech businesses supported climate change and resource efficiency legislation because they understand the innovation and job creation potential of a clean energy economy. On the other side was the oil industry which is one of the most profitable in the world.

On the national front, I think the Republican victory may actually be good for Green Jobs. Over the past two years the Republicans could simply block a lot of legislative initiatives (think Climate Change, Home Star, etc). Now with their majority in the House of Representatives, they will at least be forced to take a stand and I believe that many Republicans will actually buy into the Energy Security argument (which is core to Everblue’s approach to sustainability). With the Pentagon itself making massive Energy Security commitments, the Republicans and Democrats may actually work together to produce quality legislation. It may not be a massive new program but hopefully a series of long-term thoughtful initiatives that will support the clean energy economy and green jobs. The President himself said as much when he voiced his support for small scale initiatives around electric vehicles, for converting some of the nation’s heavy truck fleet to run on natural gas, for incentives for energy efficiency in buildings and appliances, and for more emphasis on renewable energy and nuclear power. He said such programs lead to innovation and can create thousands of jobs.

So what do you think? What will happen now after the elections? How will the Republicans interpret their victory in terms of the clean energy economy? What legislation would you like to see passed?

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