Wednesday, September 19, 2012

ICOSA Driving Force Radio: Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs – a discussion with co-authors Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar

Clean tech isn’t partisan – except in Washington, D.C.  When it comes to clean tech, “we need to hear less from Capitol Hill and more from Main Street” concludes a report by DBL Investors, a venture capital firm located in San Francisco whose goal is to combine top-tier financial performance with meaningful social, economic and environmental returns in the region and sectors in which it invests.  The report titled, “Red, White & Green: The True Colors of America’s Clean Tech Jobs,” (the “Report”) looks at the disparity between Washington D.C.’s view of “green jobs” and the rest of the country.  On Capitol Hill, “in general,” says the Report, “Democrats support them.  Republicans oppose them.  End of story.”

This isn’t how it’s always been.  “Indeed, some of the strongest pieces of environmental legislation were enacted during the presidency of Republican Richard Nixon.  The polarized discussion of the environment is a relatively recent phenomenon, and, perhaps sadly, echoes the sharp divisions occurring throughout American political discourse,” continues the Report.  At the state level, clean tech doesn’t appear to have a political party.  Indeed, “many of the governors working the hardest to bring clean tech jobs to their home states are not only Republican, but are usually regarded as leaders of their party.”  Governors are focused on creating jobs and the data shows that they are using clean tech to bring high-quality jobs to their states. 

Clean tech is a significant part of the economic engine in the U.S. contributing significantly more employment opportunities than the coal industry.  However, even though the clean tech portion of the economy is much larger than that of coal, clean tech receives proportionally less attention in the national discussion of the economic effects of environmental policies.  The Report explains it this way:

According to the National Mining Association, coal employs 136,000 people in the entire country.  (See, National Mining Association, Fast Facts About Coal 2012) But three states all by themselves each have more clean tech workers than all the coal mining workers in the USA.  The total number of Americans working in clean tech is many times the size of those in coal.  This rarely-acknowledged statistic suggests that we broaden the national discussion of the economic effects of environmental policies.  That discussion often emphasizes their impact on the coal industry, without the much larger clean tech portion of the energy economy receiving proportionally much less attention.

The Report bolsters its conclusion by highlighting the clean tech efforts of five Republican governors: Mississippi Former Governor Haley Barbour, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Texas Governor Rick Perry.  It appears that while each governor approached clean tech differently, the result was the same – job growth and a higher voter approval rating.  For example, Governor Christie moved New Jersey from second to the first largest solar market in the U.S. by signing a law mandating solar purchases for state utilities.  According to the Report, at the time of signing Christie commented that, “having renewable energy in our state, having it be a larger part of our portfolio, creating jobs, is not a Republican issue or Democratic issue. It’s an issue that the people of our state demand we work on together.” 

In order to maintain momentum, the Report urges implementation of policies that support long term investment including: (1) keeping the Solar Investment Tax Credit; (2) redrafting tax legislation affecting clean tech-related Master Limited Partnerships and allow for solar REITs; and (3) extending the Production Tax Credit. 

The emphasis is that clean tech is recognized by both Parties as a valuable tool for job creation at the local and state level.   “We all need to understand that green jobs and clean tech are not merely the idle dreaming of a small group of partisan activists and insiders, but a source of livelihood for millions of Americans, literally in all parts of the country.  What’s more, their numbers are growing every day.” 

Co-authors Nancy Pfund and Michael Lazar will join Jan Mazotti and co-host Kelly de la Torre on ICOSA’s Driving Force radio ( next week.  Nancy Pfund is Managing Partner of DBL Investors.  Nancy writes frequently on matters relating to clean tech and “Impact investing.” Last year, she co-authored a widely-cited study showing that contrary to popular belief, current federal subsidy levels for alternative energy sources are in fact much lower than they ever were in the early days of “traditional” energy sources, such as coal, gas, and nuclear.

Michael Lazar is an MBA candidate at the Yale School of Management.  During the summer of 2012, Michael joined DBL Investors as a Summer Associate.  Prior to Yale, Michael worked for the Glover Park Group, a strategic communications and political advocacy firm in Washington, D.C.  Michael earned his BA from Stanford University.

No comments:

Post a Comment