A greenprint for the next administration?

(Photo/a4gpa, Flickr)

(Photo/a4gpa, Flickr)

The path to rebuilding the nation’s economy, including Colorado’s job market, is going green in a big way, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

A “Green Recovery” proposal from NRDC Sept. 9 details how a $100 billion program could use tax credits, loans and public-private partnerships to jump-start environmentally friendly businesses that would create 2 million jobs — including 32,000 in Colorado — in the next two years.

The nonprofit environmental organization proposes that the government set aside $50 billion in tax credits to entice private business and homeowners to retrofit their buildings to be more environmentally friendly and to invest in renewable-energy systems, such as solar panels. An additional $4 billion in federally backed loans would also be offered to encourage property owners to make these energy-saving changes.

The proposal was written by the Political Economy Research Institute for the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, and released by NRDC, a progressive environmental advocacy group.
NRDC’s plan forecasts job creation numbers based on current government estimates of industry specific employment in relation to the dollars invested into that industry.

Under the plan, the government would spend the remaining $46 billion to update public buildings with energy-saving features, expand mass transit and freight rail, and invest in renewable energy alternatives such as wind, solar and biofuels.

Blue-collar workers, primarily in construction and manufacturing, would be hired to make these green changes, according to the plan.

“This new report shows that investing in clean energy is a win-win solution. Shifting to clean energy will put more people to work, provide consumers relief at the pump, help reduce global warming pollution and revitalize our economy at a time when many Americans are hurting,” Frances Beinecke, president of NRDC, said in a statement.

The more than 32,000 jobs in Colorado would lower the state’s unemployment rate from 5.3 percent in June of this year to 4.1 percent, according to the organizations’ estimates.

The NRDC strategy divvies up the $100 billion using individual state populations and gross domestic products and would allocate $1.7 billion for Colorado to invest in green economy endeavors.

Under the plan Colorado would be able to invest $667 million to make buildings more energy efficient, $333 million to expand public transit and freight rail, and $167 million in the development of a “smart,” or more energy efficient, electrical grid. Half a billion dollars would also be invested in the development of wind, solar and biofuel power in Colorado.

The NRDC proposal points out that the $100 billion proposal’s cost is the same as this spring’s economic stimulus package, which appeared to give the economy a short-term boost.

The $100 billion price tag could eventually be covered by the auctions of carbon credits under a cap-and-trade program that would offer incentives for clean energy use while raising revenue, according to the proposal.

Any future implementation of NRDC’s “Green Recovery” plan, or proposals with similar goals, is uncertain. Both presidential candidates have expressed support for reducing the country’s carbon emissions and creating green jobs.

Sen. John McCain has supported the creation of green jobs, as well as the implementation of a cap-and-trade carbon emissions program, which would reward companies that developed cleaner energy sources on their own.

Sen. Barack Obama has proposed a plan similar to NRDC’s suggested course of action, which would spend $150 billion to create 5 million green-collar jobs nationwide over the next decade.

Obama’s energy plan also includes a cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Although McCain has offered less precise details of his plans to address climate change and create green jobs, he has said his administration would work to reduce the country’s carbon emissions to a level 60 percent below that emitted in 1990 by 2050.

This fall, the NRDC proposal’s authors plan to publish another study examining longer-term challenges and benefits created by building a greener economy, according to the Political Economy Research Institute.

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J.C. O'Connell

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