Clean energy policy could generate huge economic dividends, study says

The federal government could generate as many as 2.5 million jobs and $134 billion in economic activity in the next decade if it were to adopt clean energy policies and establish limits on greenhouse gases, a new report said today.

The report, aptly titled "Energy Policy Report: Impacts of Comprehensive Climate and Energy Policy Options on the U.S. Economy," based its conclusions on climate policies developed by 16 states. The report was created by the Center for Climate Strategies and published with Johns Hopkins University. It calls for "adoption of 23 specific policy approaches that have the potential to reduce pollution, are cost-effective, and improve energy, health, environment, and economic development."

"The economic analysis of these plans ... indicates that these stakeholder-recommended policies can, if designed properly, actually spur the economy, create jobs and reduce energy prices while significantly reducing emissions," the report says.

California, which has developed its own greenhouse gas reduction policy, the Global Warming Solutions Act, or AB 32, was not included in the list. However, its policies already have had effects, prompting utilities to snap up renewable power contracts to meet benchmarks established by the law, subsequently spurring growth in wind and solar installations.

"Several states have pioneered creation of comprehensive state climate action plans in recent years," said Tom Peterson, president and CEO of the Center for Climate Strategies, in a statement. "Our analysis provides the first clear indication of what would happen to the economy if such programs were adopted at the federal level."

The policies specified by Center for Climate Strategies include adopting crop production techniques to enhance greenhouse gas savings, increasing methane production from livestock waste, maintaining and replanting forests, enhancing recycling, capturing methane from landfills, adding nuclear power, capturing carbon, improving coal plant emissions, upgrading building codes, adding energy efficiency retrofits to buildings, creating biofuel standards and others. Policies would mean targeted funding, tax and price incentives, reform of codes and standards, technical assistance, information and education, reporting and disclosure and voluntary and negotiated agreements.

"These results may sound surprising to some, but detailed analysis shows opportunities for well-chosen policies to expand the economy," said Adam Rose of University of Southern California, a principal author of the study.

The report won the endorsement of Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA chief and New Jersey governor, who said, the "findings substantiate that advanced climate actions are essential to establishing a stable and strong economy, using clean energy sources, including renewables and nuclear power, as the primary drivers, long into the future." Whitman is co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, a proponent of nuclear energy.

Photo: One of Visalia's new buses that runs on compressed natural gas. Incentives would include upgrading fleets to reduce pollutants.