Between 1999 and November 2009, Ohio lost 418,000 manufacturing jobs. And for a long time, well before the recession, Ohio’s unemployment rate was higher than the nation’s. At 9.4 percent, it still is, but improvement is on the way. And green energy investment is one reason.
Ohio is one of the many states-targeted by Republicans for whom anything green is a red flag-that has a renewable energy standard, thus making Ohio, leader in green energy. Three years ago, Ohio mandated that, by 2025, 12.5 percent of electricity sold in the state must come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Another 12.5 percent must come from alternatives, such as nuclear power, natural gas and so-called “clean coal.” That’s going to be an uphill climb since currently Ohio only has 10 megawatts of installed wind-power operations and a little more than that in solar power. A single coal-fired plant typically has a rated capacity 600 megawatts or more.
But there’s movement in the right direction in Ohio thanks to operations like Cardinal Fastener & Specialty Co., the maker of bolts for wind turbines visited by Barack Obama two years ago just days before his inauguration. That visit was the first of many that the President has made throughout the country-mostly in the Midwest-to tout what is the closest thing the country has to an industrial plan: public investment in green manufacturing and related projects.
In the $800 billion stimulus package, $90 billion was appropriated for this: investments in residential weatherization, public transportation, innovation and manufacturing. Since then, there have been many complaints that most of the money has arrived too slowly, and that the jobs this investment was supposed to create have been too paltry.
The reality is that fully revving up green manufacturing will require many years of public and private investment. And as much as it galls deficit hawks, it will require a great deal more than $90 billion from Washington. The Chinese government is putting $738 billion into green energy alone over the next decade. That’s in addition to the vast amounts it’s putting into new and rebuilt infrastructure, including modern public transportation.
The environmental benefits of green investment speak for themselves. Less carbon dioxide will be flung into the atmosphere, less toxic waste will be produced, in short, there will be reduced impacts all around. But the impact that gets too little media attention-and then, usually, it’s negative-is the long-term impact on jobs.
Cardinal Fastener is one small success story. As Maria Galucci at SolveClimate relates, by adding wind-turbine manufacturers to the list of buyers it sells its hot-forged bolts to, the company has been able to double its revenue in less than four years and add 25 workers to its 40-employee payroll.
Except for earmarked projects they can put their names on, most Republicans (and some Democrats) view public investment in anything that doesn’t have a military purpose as anathema, un-American. In fact, without government subsidies and innovation funded by public monies, the U.S. economy would never have been as successful as it was.
Politicians, both the myopic and the malicious, together with their billionaire patrons, seek to do all they can to keep us on the dead-end path set for us by Ronald Reagan 30 years ago. Unless our smarter, more progressive leaders commit to vast sums for green investment and combine this public money with green policies, the economic deterioration plaguing us now will worsen, along with the environment.
Some will argue that now is not the time because the House of Representatives is in the hands of the most anti-environment, pro-oligarchy crew in more than a century. They will say the President isn’t bold enough. Funny how our enemies never stop trying to accomplish their agenda because they are told it’s impossible. Do you suppose their unwillingness to surrender despite the odds is what has made them so successful?