The Truth about Clean Energy Jobs
The Washington Post’s assertions today (September 15, 2011) about the Department of Energy’s loan programs are both incomplete and inaccurate.
Here are the facts: over the past two years, the Department of Energy’s Loan Program has supported a robust, diverse portfolio of more than 40 projects that are investing in pioneering companies as we work to regain American leadership in the global race for clean energy jobs. These projects include major advances for our renewable power industry including the world’s largest wind farm, several of the world’s largest solar generation facilities, and one of the country’s first commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants. Collectively, the projects plan to employ more than 60,000 Americans, create tens of thousands more indirect jobs, provide clean electricity to power three million homes, and save more than 300 million gallons of gasoline a year, all while investing in American competitiveness. What matters to the men and women who have those jobs is that the investments that this Administration is making are helping to keep factories open and running.
When the Washington Post claims that the program has created 3,500 jobs, here is what the reporters are excluding:
33,000 American auto jobs saved at Ford. The Post article does acknowledge that the program enabled Ford to modernize its factories to produce more fuel efficient vehicles, which a Ford spokeswoman credits for “helping retain the 33,000 jobs by ensuring our employees can build the fuel-efficient cars people want to drive.”
More than 7,300 construction jobs. Many of the projects funded by the program are wind and solar power plants, which create significant numbers of construction jobs but once built can be operated inexpensively without a large workforce. But the Washington Post chose to ignore all of those jobs. If a community built a new highway or a bridge that employed 200 workers directly during construction – and many more in the supply chain -- and that also strengthened the local economy by making it faster to transport goods, would anyone say that the project created zero jobs?
- Supply chain jobs. While these jobs aren’t reflected in official government estimates because of the difficulty in obtaining a precisely accurate count, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. When a company spends $100 million or $200 million building a wind farm or a solar power plant, most of that economic value actually goes into the supply chain – creating huge manufacturing opportunities for the United States.
In fact, when you look at the Washington Post’s graphic, you can see that the program has already created or saved roughly 44,000 jobs. Many of the projects it has funded are just getting going, and many of the loans won’t even go out the door until the next few weeks. Others have not ramped fully up to scale. But we are on pace to achieve more than 60,000 direct jobs – and many more in the supply chain.
Here’s a simple example:
Last year, the Department awarded a loan guarantee to build the Kahuku wind farm in Hawaii. It employed 200 workers during construction. Those wind turbines were built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The project also features a state of the art energy storage system supplied by a company in Texas. The supply chain reached 104 U.S. businesses in 21 states. But by the Washington Post’s count, none of those jobs – not even the 200 direct construction jobs – should count.
What’s critically important and completely ignored by the Washington Post, is that the value of this program can’t be measured in operating jobs alone. The investments are helping to build a new clean energy industry here in America. We are now on pace to double renewable energy generation from wind and solar from the time the President took office. Yet we are still in danger of falling behind China and other nations that are competing aggressively for leadership in these technologies. This is a race we can and will win, but only if we make these investments today. These investments will pay dividends not just in today’s jobs but in entire industries and supply chains – and in cleaner air and water for our children and grandchildren.
One of the goals of the program is to create projects that will encourage the private sector to take the financing risk on other, similar projects on its own. If we can show, for example, that a commercial scale cellulosic biofuel plant in Iowa can succeed, the private sector will likely finance many more of them around the country.
America’s economic strength has been built on technological leadership. The next great technological revolution is the clean energy revolution, and this Administration is committed to making sure that America will continue to lead the world.