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Clean energy would create good jobs, study says
Report examines impact on Ohio, 9 other states
Rick Callahan
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS | Updating the Midwest’s industries and homes with energy-efficient or alternative technologies would create thousands of high-paying jobs during the next 20 years, a new study suggests.

University of Illinois researchers examined the potential impact if 10 Midwestern states, including Ohio, adopted cleaner energy sources — development critics long have maintained would cost jobs and be too expensive.

But the ‘‘Job Jolt’’ report, released Monday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, concluded that investing in energy-efficient machinery, solar and wind power and biomass energy would create more than 200,000 jobs and $5.5 billion in additional worker income.

Although jobs would be lost in such a transition during the next two decades, more new ones would be created in the 10 states than would be eliminated, the report said.

‘‘New jobs . . . would be almost twice the total employment in the Midwest electric utility industry,’’ according to the study.

The Chicago-based nonprofit policy and advocacy group sought the analysis to examine the result of its recommendations that states with coal-fired or nuclear power plants adopt cleaner energy measures.

The study attempted to predict the results of the gradual reduction of reliance on those old technologies — which account for 95 percent of the 10-state region’s electricity generation — by adding modern clean-energy technologies.

Charlie Kubert, an environmental business specialist with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said that besides solar and wind power, biomass energy holds the potential for reducing the reliance on fossil fuels. For example, switchgrass, a perennial grass with the same heating value as coal, could be burned with coal to reduce demand for fossil fuel.

Kubert said renewable energy sources have been held back by cheap coal power and the absence of consistent tax incentives for solar and wind power. Low energy prices also have discouraged the pursuit of cleaner technologies, he said.

Consumers also have played a role in keeping the status quo by not seeking out the most energy-efficient of products, he said. For example, a homeowner buying a new clothes dryer sometimes buys one of the cheapest models, rejecting more expensive dryers that actually cost less to operate in the long run because they use less electricity.

‘‘The primary effect of using energy efficient appliances besides the fact that people will be buying less electricity is the opportunity for that money to be spent in the state on something else,’’ Kubert said.

By 2020, the report found that Indiana would amass 15,500 new jobs and increase economic output by $1.2 billion per year. The job gains would be despite a net loss of about 6,000 jobs in the state’s utility sector cut because of a predicted decline in power demand, Kubert said.

Judith Ripley, a commissioner with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, said the commission has contracted with Purdue University’s State Utility Forecasting Group to assess the potential of renewable resources in Indiana.

The state also is using a federal grant to produce an updated map of the state’s windiest spots, those most suitable for wind turbines that have grown more efficient because of technological advances.

‘‘The technology is better now so it doesn’t take as much wind to make them viable,’’ she said.

The new study was done by the University of Illinois’ Regional Economics Applications Laboratory using economic modeling techniques.

The Joyce Foundation, a philanthropic group that supports efforts to protect the Great Lakes states’ environment paid for the report.

Besides Ohio, the 10 states examined by the study were Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

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