How a Green New Deal Would Benefit the Economy

The Green New Deal isn't just about protecting jobs, it's about creating jobs and a healthy economy

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution on February 7 to start a green new deal that would also create new jobs. While the resolution may be dead in the proverbial water until a Democrat is in the presidency, there is no denying what a green new deal would do for the environment. What many may not realize is what it would do for the economy.

A green new deal would create jobs

The Sierra Club touts how a green new deal would benefit the economy in general, including creating millions of jobs. The green economy employs more people than the fossil fuel industry, according to a report by the Brookings Institute. In 2016, the solar workforce increased by 25 percent in 2016 and the wind energy workforce increased by 32 percent, according to a 2017 report by the Department of Energy. The report also found that 2.2 million people work in jobs in the energy efficiency sector, while over 259,000 people work with alternative fuels vehicles.

The jobs created by the green economy are not just short term ones for construction projects, but long term ones for operation and maintenance, as Joseph Kane, senior research associate with the Brookings Institution, said in an interview for a podcast called Trump on Earth. “It has to be about long term career pathways — really workforce development,” he said. In other words, a green new deal has the potential to create good paying jobs with benefits.

Job creation for men and women in the new energy economy workforce
Women in the new energy economy workforceU.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Jobs in the renewable energy sector are growing. Spending two percent of annual GDP on the green economy could create more than 15 million jobs in five years, Data For Progress estimated in its report. In the solar sector, jobs are growing 17 times more than the U.S. economy, according to a report published in 2018 by the International Renewable Energy Agency. Almost every state experienced an increase in clean energy jobs in 2018, the 2019 Clean Jobs America analysis found. Clean energy jobs outnumber those in the fossil fuel sector almost three to one. Solar by itself employs over twice the amount of coal workers. Renewable energy jobs are not the only ones that are growing. More Americans work in the energy efficiency sector than work as waiters and waitresses.

A green new deal would save Americans money on energy bills

Weatherizing buildings across the country must be a key part of a green new deal, which would help people reduce their energy bill. It would also create hundreds of thousands of retrofitting jobs. The Sierra Club recommends that any building weatherization projects  receiving funding from a green new deal be required to “pay prevailing wages and focus training opportunities in working-class communities.”

States aren’t waiting for a federal green new deal

While a federal green new deal is essentially dead, states like Illinois are passing laws that further the green economy. Only one month after Trump’s election, Illinois passed the Future Energy Jobs Act. The bill channels $180 million a year from utility companies to solar and wind projects, plus directs $189 million to provide incentives to develop solar energy and fund job training programs. It also invests $5 million in energy efficiency programs.

New Mexico passed the Energy Transition Act in March which transitions the state to 100 percent clean energy by 2045. It increases the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 80 percent by 2040. It also provides $40 million in the state’s coal regions to provide job training opportunities for coal plant and miners.

As more states join Illinois and New Mexico and experience the benefits of a green new deal, more and more Americans will support a federal bill. It is just a matter of time.