Revive Manufacturing with Green Jobs

Dave Johnson

There is a green manufacturing revolution occurring in the world — the rest of it, anyway — and it is on track to create millions of jobs and trillions of dollars of new wealth. The Take Back The American Dream conference session titled “Stop Outsourcing the Dream: How America Can Revive Manufacturing in a Green Industrial Revolution” discussed how to bring a chunk of the green manufacturing revolution to the US to create badly-needed jobs.

Scott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) started by explaining we have lost 5.5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, mostly to China, with 50,000 factories closed. For those who say we don’t need manufacturing, he explained that innovation comes from manufacturing, so we lost that, too. 90% of patents, 70% of private research and development come out of production so we have to have production or lose innovation.

Congressman Chris Murphy (D-CT ) said it’s easy to figure out what to do because we have this play out in countries that have lapped us, so we know from them what works. They identify a quickly developing manufacturing market and capture the seedlings of it before it takes full root. Renewable energy is at top of the list because it will create millions of jobs, so we need a small public subsidy to create the market demand that creates manufacturing capacity.

“As industries begin to take hold in other countries, every month we don’t play catch up is another month we’ll never get that capacity back.”

We are lacking a rather small subsidy – investment or carbon tax or cap and trade would make them immediately competitive here in US.

Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers talked about the need for a national energy conservation initiative, retrofitting buildings, the energy grid, and a focus on domestic-content requirements in renewable energy for our military needs.

Gerard said you don’t create real wealth by flipping coupons or hamburgers, you create it by taking real things and turning them into things of value. And those things of value are turned into other things of value and all of a sudden you have a wind turbine with thousands of parts made here. You can’t have a clean economy without good jobs and can’t have good jobs without a clean economy.

Leo Hindery of the New America Foundation talked about the need for a national manufacturing policy.

We have 29 million men and women looking for a full-time job, 150,000 entering the workforce every month, that means we have to fund 22 milion jobs today, next month it is 22,150,000 then 22,300,000 the next months, etc. This can only be done by increasing manufacturing. (And by the way, he said, where Scott Paul said we lost 50,000 factories between 2000 and 2009, that number is not 58,000.)

He thinks the percent of our workforce in manufacturing to shoot for is probably 25% – well above where we are. If you look at successful countries like Germany, they have 25%. But to prove this is the number he’s working with top economists to put together studies, establish the right number so we do not establish policy and only get to 11% when we need perhaps 25%.

 

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