July 31, 2008

Growing ‘Green’ Jobs

By Bob Caylor, The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Jul. 31--If she's elected governor, Jill Long Thompson would use tax credits, direct investment and executive directives to encourage the development of "green jobs" in Indiana.

The rationale is straightforward: Energy conservation, alternative fuels and clean-power technology are crucial in an era of $140-per- barrel oil -- and they could provide an economic bonanza for the state at the same time. The employment stakes could be tremendous. A greater emphasis on renewable energy could "create as many as 25,000 jobs in wind turbines and 5,000 jobs in solar," Long Thompson said during her appearance Wednesday at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 305 hall, 136 Chambeau Road.

Her opponent, incumbent Gov. Mitch Daniels, has pushed many of the same goals during his first term. The Republican's campaign Web site boasts of the development of the state's first large-scale wind farm, the wide implementation of E85 ethanol fuel pumps, the use of tax credits to reward people who buy energy-efficient appliances, the beginnings of developing "clean coal" power generation and other accomplishments.

Long Thompson's green- jobs plan proposes to:

--Provide an additional $500 tax credit for each green job created by a company in the state. However, in order to qualify, a business would have to be "evaluated on the basis of its energy and water usage, material selection, waste management, site selection and green-building standards," according to the plan.

--Designate half the $35 million in funding from the state's 21st Century Research & Technology fund for fledging companies conducting energy and environmental research and development.

--Direct $10 million each year from existing economic-development funds to a new Clean Energy Fund.

--Work with pension funds for state employees and teachers to increase those funds' investments in clean technology and alternative energy stocks.

Cam Savage, spokesman for Daniels' campaign, said such stocks are likely part of the state's investment portfolio. However, encouraging a particular segment of the economy through stock purchases ought to be secondary to generating strong growth in investments.

"The pension funds have a fiduciary responsibility to the retired employees to maximize their return, and the primary focus of those funds is to make as much money for pensioners as possible," Savage said.

--Modernize "net-metering" rules so utilities have to credit homeowners or businesses that generate more power than they use and return it to the grid. That also is a measure the governor supports, Savage said.

Although Long Thompson and Daniels both emphasize the creation of jobs based on renewable energy or environmental protection, some critics question the importance of government priming a pump that ought to be gushing in the current energy market.

A Libertarian economist at Indiana University Southeast said doling out additional tax breaks and appropriations isn't necessary when gasoline hovers around $4 per gallon.


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