Ensuring that America’s clean energy revolution leaves no one behind will require incentives for domestic production and targeted, collaborative investment in communities most likely to see job losses, two expert authors write.
As many as 4.2 million new clean energy jobs could be created courtesy of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), but policy-makers at all levels of government need to double-down on ensuring that those millions of Americans still employed in the legacy industries of a fossil fuel economy are not left behind,write Devashree Saha and Dan Lashof, senior associate and director, respectively, of the World Resources Institute (WRI), in a recent op-ed in The Hill.
Already an employment juggernaut with 4% job growth in 2021 (1.2% faster than the overall economy), the U.S. clean energy sector today employs 3.2 million people, accounting for 40% of the nation’s energy jobs.
And the employment trajectory of the sector is pointed firmly upwards, courtesy of the hundreds of billions of dollars pledged in the IRA and IIJA for clean energy technology development, grid updates, and electric vehicles.
“The U.S. can create nearly one million more net jobs by 2035 from federal climate measures included in the IRA and IIJA compared to business-as-usual,” Saha and Lashof write, citing new analysis from WRI.
“The full employment impact can be significantly larger when you factor in provisions related to onshoring manufacturing of clean energy technologies, which could create up to 3.1 million additional net jobs during the same period.”
The long-term certainty on tax policy certainty provided by the IRA has also been a catalyst for a number of major corporations to announce “multi-billion-dollar manufacturing investments across the country, including in states that have seen manufacturing decline in recent decades,” they add. The list includes Toyota, which recently announced a US$2.5-billion electric vehicle battery plant in North Carolina.
But while the clean energy sector is booming, sectors that depend on fossil fuels, from resource extraction to distribution to transportation, “will witness a net job loss,” Saha and Lashof warn.
“An unmanaged transition will not only impose economic costs on vulnerable workers and communities, but it could also create opposition to climate action that could delay this crucial energy transition,” they say.
That’s why a just and equitable transition must incorporate “additional smart policies, such as those incentivizing domestic manufacturing,” while targeting investment to communities likely to see energy sector job losses due to the transition.
Addressing another energy and resource issue where the most vulnerable risk being left behind, three Congressional Democrats are trying to make it illegal for utilities to cut water and power to households that have outstanding bills. The effort by Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Jamaal Bowman of New York comes at a time when roughly one in six American households, some 20 million families, are struggling to pay their utility bills, reports Politico.
The three lawmakers are particularly concerned about protecting households against power shutoffs during summer heat waves. While “most states have laws that prevent utilities from shutting off services because of unpaid bills during the winter, fewer than half have similar measures for the summer,” Politico notes. And “as climate change continues to fuel longer and more intense heat waves, shutoffs are becoming increasingly dangerous.”