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A matter of perspective

The United States in the 21st century faces an enormous challenge—successfully managing the transformation from a predominantly carbon-intensive economy to becoming a predominantly clean energy-based economy. The reality of global climate change due to rising carbon emissions makes it imperative that the U.S. economy dramatically cut its consumption of traditional fossil fuels, the primary source of carbon dioxide (CO2) delivered into our atmosphere by human activity. Rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is in turn the primary cause of global warming. The United States in the 21st century faces an enormous challenge—successfully managing the transformation from a predominantly carbon-intensive economy to becoming a predominantly clean energy-based economy. The reality of global climate change due to rising carbon emissions makes it imperative that the U.S. economy dramatically cut its consumption of traditional fossil fuels, the primary source of carbon dioxide (CO2) delivered into our atmosphere by human activity. Rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is in turn the primary cause of global warming.

Our Mission

Our analysis in this paper shows that these two measures operating together can generate roughly $150 billion per year in new clean-energy investments in the United States over the next decade. This estimated $150 billion in new spending annually includes government funding but is notably dominated by private-sector investments. We estimate this sustained expansion in clean-energy investments triggered by the economic stimulus program and the forthcoming American Clean Energy and Security Act can generate a net increase of about 1.7 million jobs. This expansion in job opportunities can continue as long as the economy maintains a commitment to clean-energy investments in the $150 billion per year range. If clean-energy investments expand still faster, overall job creation will increase correspondingly.

These job gains would be enough—on their own—to reduce the unemployment rate in today’s economy by about one full percentage point, to 8.4 percent from current 9.4-percent levels—even after taking into full account the inevitable job losses in conventional fossil fuel sectors of the U.S. economy as they contract. Our detailed analysis, based on robust economic-modeling methodologies that are explained in detail in the paper and in Appendix 1, beginning on page 48, calculates that roughly 2.5 million new jobs will be created overall by spending $150 billion on clean-energy investments, while close to 800,000 jobs would be lost if conventional fossil fuel spending were to decline by an equivalent amount. It is not likely that all $150 billion in new clean-energy investment spending would come at the expense of reductions in the fossil fuel industry. However, we present this scenario to establish a high-end estimate for reductions in conventional fossil fuel spending, and the net gains in employment that will still result through spending $150 billion per year on clean-energy investments. In appendix 2, we also present these figures on net job creation broken down on a state-by-state basis for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

A GLANCE AT NAS-ENERGY

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