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With a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill coming, a green jobs revolution is around the corner

The new $1.2 trillion infrastructure package coming from Congress should supercharge a new green jobs revolution.

Image Credit: Flickr/Linh Do

The current compromise agreement between a group of moderate Republican and Democratic Senators seems to pave the way for the passage of the largest infrastructure spending bill in recent history.

That bill, when it arrives, will pour money into technology like electric vehicles and EV charging; financing for better heating and cooling for public buildings and homes; upgrades to more efficient and high tech equipment to provide clean water, more reliable and efficient power, and increased internet access to millions of Americans.

“We have a deal,” President Biden said, addressing a pool of reporters at The White House. “And I think it’s really important.”

We think so too. And there’s every reason to believe that new technology companies will be a big part of this important step to rebuild American infrastructure.

In his statement to the press the President called out not just the direct investments that the government will make, but the creation of a new financing authority that’s going to tap investment firms and their companies to “provide folks with good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

That’s where FootPrint Coalition, and other investors like us, can come in. We’re supporting these next generation companies that are going to bring new jobs to areas that could potentially be hit hard by the transition away from existing energy sources like coal, oil, and natural gas.

These are businesses like Sealed, our most recent publicly announced investment, which provides the upfront costs and manages home retrofits to improve energy efficiency. The work they’re doing could save Americans billions on heating and cooling by reducing their energy consumption.

And these aren’t just high-tech jobs for the Tony Starks of the world.

Sure, new infrastructure spending to upgrade equipment could boost sales for Turntide, the innovative new motor technology developer we backed alongside folks like Nest inventor Tony Fadell’s Future Shape and Breakthrough Energy Ventures, but it also means more jobs for people with all sorts of skills and from all types of backgrounds.

The breadth of opportunities for working Americans is vast, as previous reporting has shown — and will create opportunities not just for tech companies, but for all Americans.

Research from the non-profit group WorkingNation shows that these green jobs are already here in some states, and that they’re open to nearly everybody.

“The design of this research, which has never been done at this scale before, is to show a more broad definition of what green jobs are now considered. And point to jobs in each state — their growth, the positive for the overall economies, and the fact that these jobs are not predictions,” wrote Joan Lynch, the non-profit’s chief content and programming officer in an email. “They are ‘here and now’. It’s very inspiring for people of all skill sets that want to do work that has a benefit of cleaning up our environment.”

The group takes green jobs to mean any jobs that were created as a result of spending on sustainable initiatives. For a state like Pennsylvania, which typically gets linked more to fracking for natural gas and oil than it does for sustainability, the number of green jobs was actually surprising large, according to Lynch.

Green industries generated $42.9 billion in sales in the state and employed over 376,000 people. They represented 5.3% of the state’s gross income and were 6.1% of employment in Pennsylvania, according to WorkingNation data.

And with more investments from the Biden Administration to finance the kinds of energy efficiency upgrades that companies like Sealed and BlocPower provide, the more jobs are created.

“There are more ‘regular’ green jobs than specialized green jobs, meaning that lots of ‘regular people’ are employed because of an in connection with the business of improving the environment, which is making money for businesses as well as providing overall benefits for the environment,” Lynch wrote.

In 2019 the “green” industry broadly generated more jobs for welders, office clerks, executive secretaries, accountants, machinists, and janitors, than for higher skilled jobs like wind turbine technicians, hazardous material removal specialists,

environmental scientists, or environmental engineers and biochemists (although there were plenty of job openings for those folks too).

“Of course there are some specialties that need special training to ‘bolt on’ to basic skills, but data show that, on balance, a lot of ‘regular’ employment can be generated without major up-skilling requiring costly training and higher education,” Lynch wrote.

Other parts of the proposed infrastructure package could have significant jobs benefits, too.

There are roughly $83 billion worth of planned electricity transmission and distribution projects planned across the US already that have been approved or recommended to regulators, according to a May report from the industry advocacy group, WIRES. That spending could add 442,000 jobs and boost direct spending by nearly $39 billion during the construction phase of these projects.

Over the long-term, those projects could create annual additional GDP of $1.6 billion and roughly 9,000 permanent new jobs. They can also cut electricity prices, boost renewable generation and keep us in line with our emissions goals so we don’t overheat the planet.

These numbers just scratch the surface of the kinds of opportunities that these new industries present (for more on what the climate decade holds, check out Andrew Beebe’s piece here. He’s an investor with Obvious Ventures, another in a long list of firms focused, at least in part, on solving the climate emergency).

So what’s the point?

There’s been a lot of talk about how these climate policies will cost American jobs. But the kinds of companies that investors like us are financing to support the initiatives that the government wants to develop will create new jobs that are equally as rewarding, and don’t cost the planet so much.

That’s the goal. That’s what we’re all working to do. Build a better world before we break this one.

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