Georgia’s Economy needs a Green Future!

Posted on October 14, 2009 by

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Lets ‘Get Smart’ about some things:

Georgia is experiencing some of the worst that the US recession has to offer.  Investments in fossil fuels infrastructure like coal only strengthen the conditions that caused this recession, while investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency are some of the only remaining markets with the ability to lift our state economy out of the red and into productive healthy job market.

foreclosure-signForeclosure rates have increased immensely in 2009, leaving Georgia with the sixth highest foreclosure rate in the country.

The latest joblessness rates for the state jumped from just 6.4 percent in July 2008, to over 10.3 percent in late August 2009, the highest Georgia joblessness rates since the number started being recorded.

Recent decreases in joblessness numbers in some of Georgia’s central and northern counties- like Washington County, where unemployment rates reach >15-20%-are being attributed to the fact that so many people have simply given up the search for work.

Georgia has the 5th largest population, 1.68 million people, of uninsured citizens who have to cover expensive medical bills out of pocket.  And, as Georgia utility’s continue to invest heavily in fossil fuel and nuclear technology, the state’s electricity rates continue to rise.

Each of these factors is placing greater immediate stress and strain on Georgia’s families and business owners as they try to cover their most basic costs. Yet, instead of making rash and hurried economic decisions, we need to be using this slow economic period to assess our current economic strategies, and to make smart investment decisions that will help lower costs and create the healthy job markets that will give citizens the opportunity to lift themselves out of the recession.

Instead, Georgia utilities and key decision-makers are continuing business-as-usual, throwing vast resources into existing  strategies like fossil fuel development, and thus allowing Georgia’s job markets and energy economies to remain in their stagnate, declining, and deplorable position.

For example, Georgia currently sends more then $2.4 billion dollars out of our state every year, to pay the high price of importing the coal that our energy economy is currently dependent upon.  This means that instead of creating new healthy jobs for Georgians and attracting business to our state by investing in our in-house resources (sun, wind, and efficiency to name a few), utility companies are effectively exporting tens of thousands of Georgia’s jobs.

coalplant_usgs

Power4Georgians- the 6 member electrical membership cooperative (EMC) coalition attempting to build a $2.1 billion dollar, 850mw coal-fired power plant in Washington County, Georgia- seeks to continue this practice.  The company, led by the only EMC current under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, hopes its $2.1 billion power plant plan help alleviate joblessness in central Georgia by creating just 79 jobs.  That means that each job created comes at the extravagent cost of $26 million a piece, a high price to pay for a concentrated group of jobs all dependent on the same volatile market forces and contested legislation.

As a result of these types of ancient economic decision, Georgia has found itself falling behind the renewable energy curve, as the Atlanta Business Chronicle recently put it.  Decision makers and dirty energy investments are not only failing to attract new and growing clean-tech businesses which are lifting communities out of the recession throughout the United States, but they are also pushing the few businesses it does have out the door.  Norcross, Ga based Suniva, which produces solar panels, recently decided to open a $250 million dollar, 500 job, operation in Michigan rather then keep jobs in its home state.

The federal government released more then $150 billion dollars designed to ignite a clean energy economy with the potential to create more then 58,000 clean jobs in Georgia, but utilities like Power4Georgians, and Georgia law-makers, must help create the conditions for Georgians to effectively use these opportunities.

green-jobs-workforce-recession“The affordability and long-term cost-effectiveness of energy-related improvements is become a reality throughout the U.S., Georgia is falling behind the curve. Here, public policy is directly preventing hundreds of millions from commercial investment in Georgia, causing thousands of clean-tech jobs to locate elsewhere”  – Atlanta Business Journal

Study after study, and community after community is proving that investment in energy efficiency in the Southeast creates four to six times more jobs on the dollar than investments in fossil fuels like coal. That means that if Power4Georgians would invest there $2.1 billion dollars in energy efficiency and renewable energy they, on top of meeting the necessary energy demand faster, more cheaply, and more cleanly, would create more then 400 diverse jobs for Washington County.  These jobs would be dispersed through different sectors (home builders, electricians, engineers, HVAC, building repair) and as they are collectively less reliant on one single industry, legislation, or investment they would help to strengthen the local economy against recession.

Continued investments into ancient biomass and fossil fuels technologies and expensive nuclear power, are direct investments away from growing a healthy green jobs economy powerful enough to lift Georgia out of the recession.  Georgia, like much of the rest of the country, needs an energy foundation that is based in the jobs markets of renewable energy and energy efficiency that will lower electricity costs for consumers and invigorate our economy.

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