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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

This act is not just about jobs; it's about the future

From an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The tone and tenor of the debate over the Clean Energy Jobs Act was determined the moment the legislation was named.

Supporters built into the name what they, not unreasonably, believed would be one of the bill's principal virtues: job creation. But, with recession-induced trauma still fresh in everyone's minds, it is simply too easy and expedient - facts be damned - to call virtually any new legislation a jobs killer, from health care reform to even a jobs bill.

We believe the jobs will be there, but it is important at this juncture to recognize that this bill is not really intended as an economic stimulus measure. In very real terms, it is an attempt at economic and environmental reinvention - done with the specter of climate change and all its effects looming.

Yes, climate change, with humanity as a major contributor, is real. But even if you don't believe that, there is little to no downside to a future in which a good portion of our energy comes from renewable sources - 25% by 2025 - and no downside to a future in which energy efficiencies mean we are doing the same or more with less energy.

The reinvention comes in two other goals: growing new technologies and fostering energy independence. Doing this will have far more enduring effects on those bottom lines in the future than any short-term benefit derived from doing nothing now to cushion today's corporate bottom lines.

On jobs, there are two dueling studies cited most often on whether the Clean Energy Jobs Act will actually create jobs.

One is by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Southern California for the Center on Climate Strategies, the results of which are similar to findings by various state agencies. It forecasts a net increase of more than 16,200 new jobs in Wisconsin by 2025. It predicts a boost to the state's economy of $4.85 billion total "in net present value" from 2011 to 2025.

The other study was done by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. It contends that policies similar to those in the bill would kill 43,000 Wisconsin jobs. The problem: It did not model the actual policies in the bill.

The Michigan study is more believable.

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