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Fact: Clean Energy is Good for the Economy

A new report shows 2.5 million Americans now work in the clean energy field—and that number is quickly growing.

The clean energy revolution means we’re getting more renewable power from the wind and sun, doing more with less waste in our workplaces and homes, and building some of the best all-electric and hybrid cars in the world. But who, exactly, is leading the way?

The answer: a growing corps, 2.5 million strong, of American workers coast to coast. That’s what we learned this week in an authoritative new reportfrom NRDC’s affiliate, Environmental Entrepreneurs, or E2, on the fast-growing clean energy workforce.

That workforce is made up of skilled Americans like Paul Golphin of Cleveland, a press operator who stamps out steel parts for the solar panels that help us get electricity from the sun; Jennifer Pytleski, a designer in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, who helps business owners save big money on their power bills while their employees become more productive using modern lighting systems; and Craig Millar, an engineer in Newton, Iowa, helping to build giant blades for wind turbines shipped across his state and across the country.

For more and more of our business leaders — and more and more of our families — the clean energy revolution has become the economic play of a lifetime. Now we’ve got the jobs to prove it.

We’ve begun, in our county, an epic pivot away from the dirty fossil fuels we’ve relied on since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. We’re moving toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future without putting the planet in peril.

That’s what the United States, China, India, Mexico, and more than 180 other countries pledged to do last December in Paris. That historic agreement sent a message to our children: We won’t abandon you to the growing dangers of climate change. It sent a message to the world: We know how to do better, and we will. And it sent a message to global financial markets: The future belongs to those who invest in the clean energy revolution.

Making that transition is vital work — and it’s creating millions of jobs. Nearly 1.9 million Americans now go to work each day helping to make our homes, our schools, our office buildings — and our economy — more energy efficient. They’re building some of the most efficient appliances in the world. They’re creating advanced materials, improving our lighting systems, and tuning up our heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment, saving us money along the way. And they’re helping us to build on decades of progress that has cut our energy use nearly 60 percent, as a share of our economic output, over just the past 35 years.

Think of how much more we can save — and the additional jobs we’ll create — with policies that help us to build on those gains in the decades to come.

Nearly 380,000 Americans are going to work each day to help us get more clean power from the wind and sun. They’re installing solar panels on tens of thousands of homes, building the giant blades and other components of wind turbines, and maintaining these systems nationwide, while 40,000 more work to upgrade our electricity grid so we can better store and distribute clean power.

That’s why about 70 percent of all the new electric generating capacity built in our country last year is powered by the wind or sun.

Another 170,000 are working to build all-electric or hybrid cars and trucks, vehicles powered by natural gas, hydrogen, or fuel cell technology. Nearly 33,000 more work to create fuels from farm waste and other organic matter.

Many of these 2.5 million jobs, by the way, have been created over the past decade, a time when the United States has lost 1.9 million manufacturing jobs, or 13 percent of the sector’s workforce. To millions of American families, clean energy jobs have become a lifeline in uncertain times.

Public policy is helping. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, for example, is promoting the shift to better ways to power our future by cleaning up the dangerous carbon pollution from our dirty power plants. The agreement he brokered to raise fuel efficiency for our cars to 54.5 miles per gallon, on average, by 2025, is helping to provide more choices for consumers to shrink their carbon footprint per mile driven. The recent extension of key tax incentives brings valuable predictability to the markets for wind and solar power, while smart renewable energy policies in states stretching from North Carolina to Oregon are also helping our country’s economy and its environment.

What’s needed now is to ensure effective and faithful implementation of the Clean Power Plan at the state level. We need to resist attempts in some states to weaken or roll back smart standards for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean fuels. And we need to support increased investment in our electricity grid and modern rate structures that place a fair value on the power we get from the wind and sun.

We’ve relied on dirty fuels for centuries. Now, though, we’re changing course. And, while the oil, gas, and coal industries and their political allies do all they can to anchor our future in the dirty fuels of the past, the American worker is looking ahead, harnessing U.S. enterprise, innovation, and initiative to help create a brighter tomorrow for our children.

That’s been the core strength of our nation from its beginnings. That’s the power of American promise to drive progress for us all.

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