Watch events live from the U.S. Center in Copenhagen. Follow the U.S. Center on YouTube and Flickr.About the Author: Billie Gross serves as Public Affairs Specialist for the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. She is currently on assignment at the U.S. Center in Copenhagen.
Today’s keynote event at the U.S. Center at COP-15 featured U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. An audience in Hong Kong joined attendees in the U.S. Center via digital videoconference, and a global audience participated via web chat. Secretary Locke’s presentation, “Clean Energy Jobs in a Global Marketplace,” emphasized how comprehensive energy reform is not just an important challenge we must face for our environment but an opportunity to reinvigorate economies around the globe and create new jobs.
President Obama’s historic $80 billion investment in clean energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is already stimulating clean energy development, deployment, and markets. These investments demonstrate to U.S. companies that sustainable growth is not just necessary to prevent the worst consequences of climate change but is also good for their bottom line.
As the Obama Administration continues to make investments for a new, prosperous and sustainable future, the U.S. Department of Commerce is working to support entrepreneurs all across America who are installing wind turbines and solar panels, developing improved batteries for hybrid cars, and putting the pieces of a next-generation electricity grid together.
During his presentation, Secretary Lock highlighted examples of how clean energy can start putting people back to work. Because of the energy-efficiency tax credits in the Recovery Act, Northeast Building Products in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has gone from one shift to three and increased sales by more than 33% since last year. Northeast has expanded its labor force from 180 to 268 and is producing 4,000 windows per week, compared to 2,500 per week a year ago.
In Phoenix, Arizona, a company called eTEC is using a matching Recovery Act grant for a pilot project that builds charging stations for battery-operated cars. The project will help create infrastructure to power as many as 5,000 electric vehicles in 11 cities across America. Most importantly, the project will allow eTEC to grow its workforce from about 30 employees to as many as 750.
These examples show how, even in difficult economic times, the potential of a new clean energy economy is providing hope across the United States.
Secretary Lock also talked about the importance of learning from what already works and fixing what doesn’t. President Obama has already proposed the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimated that this one step could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent by 2050. This is an important step, but we have farther to go on this journey to a clean energy economy. Climate change cannot be solved by governments alone. We need the innovation of people and the ideas of entrepreneurs and inventors, because many technologies needed to cope with climate change simply don’t exist yet.
Secretary Locke’s presentation underscored that while discovering new energy solutions to mitigate climate change and create millions of jobs will not be easy, we most definitely have the talent, innovation and tenacity required to accomplish this lofty goal.