A new study says Ohio ranks sixth among states in its recent growth of clean-energy jobs. State and federal governments can help sustain that encouraging pace by pursuing policies that give renewable-energy sources a better chance to compete in the market with traditional ones.
Environmental Entrepreneurs, which released the report, consists of more than 800 business leaders who study how environmental issues affect the economy. The study concludes that subsidies have helped bring more renewable-energy providers into the marketplace, but that these investments still amount to less than the support the fossil-fuel industry has enjoyed for decades.
Most immediately, Congress could help by renewing the federal production tax credit for wind power, which is scheduled to expire Dec. 31. The $25 million Ventower Industries LLC factory in Monroe that began production a year ago is an example of a local business that could benefit from extension of the credit.
Wind power is the fastest-growing form of energy production in the United States, going from less than 1 percent of the market a few years ago to 3 percent today. The electricity that wind power can generate — enough to power 13 million homes — is twice the potential output that existed just four years ago.
As Congress waffles over the tax credit, the U.S. wind industry, and the 75,000 jobs it supports in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance, are at risk. The uncertainty over renewal already has led to some layoff notices.
Congress can advance this nation's goals of energy independence, less pollution, and diversified power generation by placing wind power and other green technologies on a sounder financial footing. Renewables need not be artificially propped up longer than fossil fuels, but need more than a sporadic commitment. Critics often complain about such subsidies to emerging industries, while shrugging off the federal Price-Anderson Act, which covers the nuclear industry for billions of dollars in financial losses should a cataclysmic event occur.
Market forces react to what government defines as energy priorities. New federal fuel-economy rules for cars and trucks deserve some credit for the creation of 236,600 jobs in the U.S. auto industry since June, 2009. That total includes 11,300 jobs in Ohio, says DrivingGrowth, an advocacy group sponsored by environmental organizations.
The growth of green-energy jobs in Ohio also confirms the wisdom of the law that requires the state to have at least 12.5 percent of its electricity generated by renewable sources by 2025. The trend offers a good argument for moving forward with similar federal initiatives.