Report says converting to green economy creates jobs

The movement of giant wind turbines through the port of Duluth has created a boomlet of economic activity for the region, just the kind of clean, green jobs that will flourish when the U.S. turns away form oil and coal in the battle against globa...

The movement of giant wind turbines through the port of Duluth has created a boomlet of economic activity for the region, just the kind of clean, green jobs that will flourish when the U.S. turns away form oil and coal in the battle against global warming.

That was the message Tuesday from leaders of environmental, labor and political groups who say U.S. action is needed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and push the nation's economy toward green energy.

The groups released "Job Opportunities for Green Economy,'' which looked at current jobs and potential in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

Authors projected major increases in jobs for welders, electricians, electrical engineers, equipment operators and truck drivers, saying most of the jobs needed in the transition to new energies already exist.

A recent U.S. Department of Energy report said it's possible to generate 20 percent of all U.S. electrical needs by 2030, up from 1.2 percent today, a move that would create nearly $1 trillion worth of economic activity around wind, said John Dunlop of the U.S. Wind Energy Association, in a telephone news conference Tuesday.


Ron Johnson, trade development director for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, said major wind energy shipments first hit the Twin Ports in 2004. Wind turbines are being off-loaded in the port, headed for wind farms on the Iron Range, western Minnesota, the Dakotas, Canada and Iowa. Some North Dakota-made turbine components also are being shipped overseas from Duluth.

The wind turbine cargo takes more workers than bulk cargo such as taconite and coal, Johnson said. He said the Duluth port is uniquely suited and has been well accepted to move the giant wind components, saying the port may be handling cargo this year headed as far away as Missouri and Illinois.

"It's good to see a lot of people working on the docks again,'' Johnson said. "There had been a drought there in the kind of cargo that puts people to work on the docks.''

Johnson said the activity is creating jobs for truckers, assembly workers, crane operators and others while spurring spending for hotels, restaurants, warehouses and other sectors of the local economy.

Norm Voorhees, market development director for Ironworkers Local 512 in Duluth, said wind energy is creating dozens of jobs in Minnesota for his union members who assemble wind turbine components.

"We're continuing to train apprentices for wind energy,'' Voorhees said.

The report said other jobs would be created as homes and buildings are retrofitted to be energy-efficient; as mass-transit systems are developed; to install solar energy components; assembling energy efficient vehicles; and growing and refining cellulosic ethanol from grasses, waste wood and garbage.

Green jobs are defined in the report as occupations that contribute toward building or producing goods to achieve a "green" marketplace. At the same time, it links the idea that green jobs should be sustainable employment opportunities -- jobs that pay at least a living wage, offer training and promotional opportunities and some measure of security.


The action comes as the U.S. Senate for the first time is debating whether the federal government should regulate human-caused greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane that many scientist say are contributing to a warming climate worldwide.

Supporters say installing a cap on greenhouse gasses and then allowing a free-market trade of carbon credits will spur investment in renewable energy.

Opponents say enacting emissions regulations will stifle the economy and hammer consumers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday called the Senate climate regulation bill a misguided effort that will cost U.S. consumers between $1,000 and $6,700 annually in increased energy and transportation costs.

The report was compiled by Robert Pollin and Jeanette Wicks-Lim at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and commissioned by Natural Resources Defense Council. It is part of the Green Jobs for America Campaign, a partnership of the Sierra Club, Blue Green Alliance, United Steelworkers, Natural Resources Defense Council and with the Center for American Progress and Green for All.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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