Increased investment in clean energy technologies could create millions of jobs and clean up the environment. That's the conclusion of a new report published by a coalition of American labor, environmental, civil rights, business and political leaders. The study, called the New Apollo Project, is named after President John Kennedy's 1960s-era man on the moon program, which inspired a major national commitment in aerospace. Supporters hope to rally similar enthusiasm for a 10-year program of strategic investments in jobs, the economy and the environment.
Ray Perryman is a corporate economist from Texas. He says the Apollo Project's proposed tax credits and energy investments make good economic sense.
Mr. Perryman says these measures would create 3.3 million jobs in manufacturing, construction and high-tech industries, while at the same time cleaning the air and reducing the need for imported oil.
"Over the life of the 10-year investment cycle it generates enough money back to the federal government to pay for itself," he said. "So, it is basically a self-funding project from that perspective. So you put all of this together and you can see why this has appeal to so many groups. It really is one of those opportunities to create a win-win situation."
Ray Perryman says to wake up the sluggish American economy, the nation must focus on innovation.
"We make high tech, high value-added [manufactured or processed] services. We market them to the world and that's about it," he said. "Everything else, someone in the world can do it cheaper than we can. And in a global economy they get that opportunity. But for the 41st consecutive month, we lost jobs in manufacturing. That is indicative of a trend, a very disturbing trend. And, the only way that we reverse that is that we have to make the next generation of products. We have to be the innovators. We have to be out front."
Ray Perryman says investment in clean energy would position the U.S. to take the lead in fast-growing markets, reduce the trade deficit and pay for itself in energy savings.
Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of America, which represents 1.2 million working and retired workers, agrees. He says the plan is a tool to revitalize manufacturing and deserves serious attention.
"Our view is from now until the presidential election this will be an issue that we will take to all of the democratic candidates," he said. "And, when the democratic candidate is chosen and all of the public forums and debates in all of the states and all of the places where there is events, our 7,000 unions will be carrying this message."
Bonner Cohen with the National Center for Public Policy Research says new tax subsidies and investments in clean energy technology will be a tough sell in the U.S. Congress.
"The chances of Congress raising the level of subsidies for these programs in the current atmosphere are virtually nil," he said. "What we will see is what we have seen until now, a level of subsidy support from the federal government that will keep these solar and wind farms in business, covering one to two percent of our energy needs, but in all likelihood, not going beyond that."
Bonner Cohen says American ingenuity will spur technological innovation and lessen the dependence on imported oil in the long-term. However, he says market forces should operate with minimum government interference.