With roughly 128,000 fossil fuel economy jobs in recent Census records, metropolitan Houston has the nation’s largest regional workforce in the fossil fuels industries. Yet, it is becoming a leader in the clean economy. Glimpses of this can be seen in gradual shifts in infrastructure and consumption.
Is natural gas energy “greener” than solar and wind? That is the surprising and unfounded contention made by Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute in a recent NYT op-ed. As it happens, our team at Brookings will be releasing a major report on the clean economy, and like scholars at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we decided to count jobs in solar and wind energy as part of the clean economy, while excluding natural gas related employment. Are we all wrong to do so?
The decline of U.S. manufacturing is a familiar story. According to government statistics, U.S. manufacturing reached its employment peak in 1979, with 19.4 million workers. In 2010, the number was just 11.5 million. The share of all workers in manufacturing has declined from 23 percent in 1970 to 9 percent in 2010.
Yesterday, we noted the extreme concentration in just a few metropolitan areas of the leading-edge U.S. cleantech firms honored in the Global Cleantech 100 list of the most promising start-ups. We noted that a whopping 39 of the 58 U.S. firms included in the list are hyper-clustered in just four metropolitan areas—San Francisco, San Jose, Boston, and Los Angeles, in that order.
We’ve been working on a database of “clean economy” companies and jobs, meaning those involved in producing goods and services that improve the environment. (Look for that in a few months). As always, though, we are preoccupied with the spatial distribution of these firms and their workforce: where and how they cluster.
In 2007, the America Competes Act created a new agency called ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects-Energy) in order to fund and foster breakthrough energy technologies. Since then, one of us, Mark Muro, has consistently endorsed the agency’s vision and strategy. Staffed on a temporary basis by scientists with extraordinary talent for both invention and commercialization, ARPA-E functions like a venture-capital firm with a public-goods focus. This allows it to fund research and development projects for which the potential benefits to humankind, the U.S.
Amid the concerns over public sector financing, many folks are worried about the quality of state (and municipal) bonds and the probability of default. Certainly, we’ve been writing about this, and as my colleague Mark Muro alluded in his recent post, there is a rather interesting and precise way to understand the risks of government solvency--analyzing the credit default swap market. As analysts of secondary markets know, like the late Salih Neftci, credit default swaps essentially allow market actors that are heavily exposed to debt in the form of bonds--e.g.
Consternation over the loss of manufacturing jobs to China was aroused again recently when Evergreen Solar announced that it would move 800 manufacturing jobs from a decommissioned Devens, Mass. military base to China. In an article by Keith Bradsher of The New York Times, Evergreen’s CEO claims that producing in China is more competitive because its local governments offer partnerships that bring very low-interest rate loans from state-owned banks compared to what U.S banks were offering. For U.S.
Jim O’Neil, an economist at Goldman Sachs and the man who coined the acronym “BRICs” (standing for Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and thereby promoted those countries to the forefront of U.S. and European consciousness, is now saying that the year 2011 is “the year of the U.S. comeback.” Now, it’s true, analysts at investment banks make a lot of lousy predictions. And as our last “MetroMonitor” showed and as everyone in touch with reality already knows, the U.S. economy is still struggling.
Amidst the partisan gridlock at the federal level, we at the Brookings Metro Program have been trying to think of ways for state and local governments to pursue policies that advance the country towards greater opportunity, enhanced innovation, growth in exports, and a cleaner economy.