By Jennifer Granholm, POLITICO
Mitt Romney has now released his five-point jobs plan, boasting that he’ll create 12 million jobs in his first term. He listed “energy independence” as the top strategy. You’ll be shocked — shocked! — to learn that renewable energy is not part of his plan. It’s all about drilling.
I’d understand a focus on oil and gas if he also pursued an “all of the above” strategy. Why omit renewables, the fastest growing sector on the planet? Just for a moment, let’s pretend that the answer to that question has nothing to do with the Koch brothers.
Global private-sector investment in clean energy has exploded by more than 600 percent since 2004, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Today, $263 billion in private-sector funding is invested globally in clean-tech jobs. By 2020, it’s expected to be $2.3 trillion, an astounding jump. Given climate change, clean-energy demands are expected to grow — with no end in sight.
If America does nothing — as Romney suggests — those jobs will land in countries that are now investing aggressively. With a little creativity, however, we can make these in-demand products here and export them around the globe. That would bring jobs to every state in our nation.
So guess who Romney forgot to consult in crafting his energy jobs plan?
Don’t look now, but even the most die-hard Republican govs are pursuing renewable energy jobs — hoping the Koch brothers won’t notice. Florida Gov. Rick Scott just quietly allowed an additional $100 million in incentives to renewable energy companies — much to the consternation of the Heartland Institute, which claimed that he and the Legislature “sold out their tea party supporters.”
Another Republican governor, Ohio’s John Kasich, is promoting an “all of the above” strategy, signing his latest energy plan at an alternative energy company. Ohio has the fastest-growing number of wind manufacturing jobs in the country. Kasich now has the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity attacking him for proposing a drilling tax so he can cut income tax on all Ohio citizens.
Virginia’s Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell sounded as green as any Democrat this year when he released his energy plan. It promised funding for wind energy off the coast, converting the state’s fleet to alternative energy vehicles and providing tax credits for businesses that invest in renewable research and development.
Iowa’s Republican Gov. Terry Branstad talks about wanting to “educate” the Romney campaign on the importance of the wind energy production tax credit that is now on D.C’s chopping block. It’s vital to the state’s growth in manufacturing, and Iowa already generates 20 percent of its energy production with wind power. Branstad says Romney’s people “need to get out here in the real world to find out what’s really going on” as far as jobs created and income paid to farmers with turbines on their land.
There’s more. Gov. Rick Perry in Texas has championed policy to expand the state’s wind energy sector, the nation’s largest. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer touts that state’s solar industry growth through tax incentives. Michigan Gov. Rick Synder has supported the auto industry’s move into electric and fuel-efficient vehicles. And New Jersey’s Chris Christie just tweaked that state’s solar energy program with a new bill to bring certainty to an industry that has already brought 10,000 jobs to the Garden State.
All over the country, Republicans and Democrats alike are chasing clean energy jobs. Governors know that the structure of the nation’s economy has changed, we’ve lost 7 million jobs over the last decade, and our international competitors are eagerly adopting energy policy to snag the low-hanging fruit of clean-tech job providers.
But even with all the efforts of govs, it’s still not enough job creation. America needs more.
So let me take off my Democratic hat and make a bipartisan proposal.
Instead of Romney’s drill-only strategy, D.C. should empower the governors and create a bottom-up, state-driven Clean Energy Jobs Race to the Top.
Conservatives would like it: Unleash the states and regions to invent their own job creation plans through a one-time national competition. Model it after the wildly successful Education Race to the Top, where an astonishing 48 states opted in and raised their education standards. Make it voluntary. If states choose to participate, they must adopt clean energy standards and craft their proposals in partnership with the private sector.
Define “clean energy” broadly. Create a federal pot no bigger than the Education Race to the Top ($4.35 billion). Do not add to the national deficit — the money for a one-time competition should come from other economic development programs that have outlived their usefulness. Do not trash the oil and coal industry — just jump start jobs in the clean energy side of an “all of the above” strategy.
Governors are hungry for both dollars and jobs, and states alone don’t have the resources to compete against China. But if the federal government could catalyze action, sparking private sector partnerships and state-level policy changes — be they tax incentives, land assembly, streamlined permitting processes, renewable-energy standards, access to capital, access to talent and training — then this bottom-up Clean Energy Jobs Race to the Top would create millions of permanent, well-paying advanced manufacturing jobs in America in the next four years. And it could bridge the partisan divide along the way.
Sounds a lot better than just chanting “drill, baby, drill.”
If Romney won’t listen to the governors of Florida, Ohio, Iowa and Virginia — the biggest swing states in this election – who will he listen to? I’m guessing that the Koch Brothers and the oil industry have bought the answer to that question.