The vast majority — 92% — of Americans think it’s important for the country to develop and use solar power, according to a study released today, making the alternative energy option potentially one of the most popular things since puppies or ice cream.
The sentiment was echoed almost evenly across political parties, with 89% of Republicans, 94% of Democrats and 93% of Independents agreeing that solar energy is an important aim.
The 2009 Schott Solar Barometer, conducted by independent polling firm Kelton Research, found that 77% of respondents also believe the federal government should make solar power development a national priority. Nearly half are considering solar power options for their home or business, while 70% of those hope to make the switch in the next five years. Only 3% already use the sun for energy.
If, as president of the U.S., they had to choose one energy source to fund, 43% of respondents would chose solar, followed by the 17% who picked wind, the 12% who settled on natural gas and the 10% who selected nuclear.
And yet only 12% of those polled could say that they were extremely informed about solar power while 74% said they wished they knew more about solar power options.
The study, conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8, was commissioned by German photovoltaic company Schott Solar.
The world stands to gain 6.9 million jobs by 2030 in the clean energy sector if a strong deal is reached in Copenhagen, according to a report released recently by Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC).
A switch from coal to renewable electricity generation will not just avoid 10 billion tons of CO2 emissions, but will create 2.7 million more jobs by 2030 than if we continue business as usual. Conversely, the global coal industry – which currently supports about 4.7 million employees worldwide – is likely to contract by more than 1.4 million jobs by 2030, due to rationalization measures in existing coal mines.
“Global leaders can tackle the twin crises of global economic recession and climate change head on by investing in renewable energy,” said Damon Moglen, Greenpeace USA global arming campaign director. “For each job lost in the coal industry our green energy scenario, known as the Energy [R]evolution, creates three new jobs in the renewable power industry. We can choose green jobs and growth or unemployment, ecological and social collapse.”
Greenpeace’s latest research provides a model for cutting emissions while achieving economic growth, illustrates how the transition to clean energy will provide more jobs by 2030 in the power sector than would be available if it stays on the current carbon-intensive path. However, leaders and governments must act on this information as soon as possible to provide necessary jobs and retraining.
Governors from across the Midwest are working together to promote clean energy industry and infrastructure in the region despite heated competition between their states for new investment and jobs.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said Wednesday that recent agreements by members of the 11-state Midwestern Governors Association aim to help make the region a center for clean energy.
“You have a lot of these little battles … that go back and forth,” Doyle said. “But I think one of the things we’ve worked hard on as Midwest governors is to understand that our bigger picture is that we’re competing as a region.”
The association’s two-day Jobs and Energy Forum in Detroit that started Tuesday was focused on efforts to leverage the Midwest’s natural resources, manufacturing expertise and skilled work force for an economy based on clean energy, such as wind, solar and other renewable resources.
Agreements include the Midwestern Energy Infrastructure Accord, which focuses on coordinating the development of improved electricity transmission across the region, a pipeline for biofuel, and technology capturing the emission of carbon dioxide from burning coal for underground storage.
A jobs platform lays the groundwork for training workers to handle jobs a clean-energy economy would create. But the cooperation only goes so far, especially among industrial Great Lakes states that have massive amounts of manufacturing capacity in the wake of decades of plant closings.
China, the world’s biggest polluter, said climate change is a challenge that it shares with the world and is a more formidable one than the global recession.
The world’s third-largest economy is committed to helping fight climate change and has taken “responsible” steps, Vice Minister of Science and Technology Liu Yanhua said at a conference in Hong Kong today, reiterating the stance of President Hu Jintao.
Industrialized economies such as the U.S. and developing countries led by China are deadlocked on how much rich nations should help poor ones deal with climate change and how much wealthy countries should cut emissions. President Hu said last month China will cut emissions in proportion to economic growth, without giving specific targets or goals.
“High-ranking members of the government are now publicly saying before the Copenhagen climate-change summit what China is doing to tackle the problem and that it’s prepared to do more,” Yang Ailun, a spokeswoman at environmental group Greenpeace, said by phone from Beijing. “The aim is also to put pressure on countries like the U.S. to make greater commitments to reduce emissions and to counter arguments China’s not doing enough.”
California’s plan to slow climate change will boost the state economy and save hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk from rising energy costs, a study by a University of California economist said on Wednesday.
The most populous U.S. state leads the nation with its plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 with measures from encouraging energy efficiency to getting a third of state electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar. But the plan is under attack from businesses and some academics who say the costs of going green will bankrupt many enterprises.
The state’s decisions are also likely to affect the country at large, since federal policy often follows California’s lead on environmental issues, from vehicle standards to plans passed in the state and being debated in the U.S. Congress to cap emissions and let companies trade credits to pollute.
Rising fossil fuel prices would cut state economic output by $84 billion and slash 626,000 jobs from state payrolls in 2020, if U.S. Department of Energy fuel forecasts are used instead of the outlook by the state energy commission, according to the study by economist David Roland-Holst of the University of California, Berkeley.
But the move to get a third of state electricity from renewables and become more efficient would reverse the decline, the study added. Instead, 2020 economic output would rise $20 billion from current projections and 112,000 jobs would be created.
Executives from about 150 companies, many involved in renewable energy technologies, heard a pep talk at the White House and then combed the halls of Congress on Wednesday to argue for passage of a climate bill that is facing an uphill fight in the Senate.
The executives in scores of meetings with senators and their staffs sought to counter opponents’ arguments that the climate bill, which will force a shift away from fossil fuels, also will lead to much higher energy prices and cost American jobs.
The business executives from more than 30 states argued that climate legislation and a shift of energy priorities away from fossil fuels could lead to a new industrial revolution and create 1.7 million jobs related to clean energy technologies “” from developing new batteries to building windmills and the next generation of solar panels.
The climate legislation is needed to create markets and jobs, said John Doerr, a partner in Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, a leading venture capital firm on Wall Street. Otherwise, he cautioned, these technologies will be developed and commercially produced elsewhere and “we will be working for the Chinese.”
The executives said they wanted to bring a message to senators: that the successes of their companies shows the viability of the clean energy development and that limits on greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, will lead to the creation of new companies and industries.
But, they argued, without action in Congress, these same technologies will be produced elsewhere, likely in China.
“That’s the issue, jobs. What’s at question is who’s going to build the batteries and who’s going to get the jobs,” said David Vieau, president of A123Systems Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that makes high-power lithium ion batteries for hybrid cars and other uses.
“If we don’t act (on climate legislation) it’s absolutely certain we’re going to get a minimal piece of that pie.”
The same theme was heard earlier in the day as the executives gathered at the White House to hear from Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.