Sal’s Vision Put Mass Ahead in Green Jobs Game

Legislative leaders haven’t been making a lot of friends on BMG of late. Admittedly, I’ve been part of the firing squad as well.  But often forgotten in handicapping the inter-branch warfare is how much, when moved, legislative leaders have contributed and can contribute to our State.

Health care reform is one area of great credit to the legislature.  I’d cite Sal DiMasi’s emphasis on “green jobs” in the prior legislative session as another.  

Our former speaker was ahead of the curve in pushing green jobs via his Green Jobs Act of 2008.  He found a friend in the Governor’s office (and got help from Secretary Bowles).  Now Massachusetts is is in a good position to capitalize on the green jobs agenda being pushed furiously by President Obama.

Sal’s signature bill created the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.  The CEC is funding training programs to create a workforce geared to environmentally-friendly industries.  The CEC has also allowed Massachusetts to make strong bids for federal funds in energy conservation and new technologies.  It’s no wonder the State won $25m for a wind turbine testing facility on the Charlestown waterfront.  

But this could all be just the beginning.  The seeds that Sal and Governor Patrick planted through the Green Jobs Act are ready to bloom given the White House’s emphasis on the issue.  For anyone paying attention, in between announcing Judge Sotomayor for the high court, meeting with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas and raising dough for Senate Majority Leader Reid, not to mention addressing North Korea’s missile tests, the President (and especially the Vice President) were talking up green jobs, a key element of the President’s recovery and long-term economic agenda.

The stimulus package is pumping serious cash into energy programs such as weatherization (which I posted about previously).  Now the US Secretary of Labour Hilda Solis is announcing $500m in grants for green job training, also from the stimulus package.  I’d like to think that with the CEC we can maximize this new funding stream to our advantage.  Vice President Biden was in Denver with his Middle Class Task Force discussing green jobs this week.  Next week, the CEC and UMASS Lowell are hosting their own Clean Energy Workforce Development Forum.  It is all coming together.

So in this season of in-fighting and political opprobrium it is worth giving credit where credit is due.  Sal saw the light and it was green.  That was pre-recession.  Now, in the midst of it, with stimulus funds flowing, we can grab a disproportionate slug.  And beyond that we need to patch into how we can sustain a green economy once the stimulus pump-prime dries up.  The White House is already looking toward that future.  We should as well.  Thanks to Mr. DiMasi for helping to give us a better chance.

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  1. Green jobs, maybe. Health reform, NOT.

    Health care reform is one area of great credit to the legislature

    The facts beg to differ.  97% "covered" but you overlook one thing; health insurance does NOT equal health care.

    The pols gave away the store by allowing BCBS MA to practically write the legislation enacting an individual mandate to force the purchase of private insurance and forcing taxpayers to subsidize the purchase of said wasteful products. Does anybody care about getting their money's worth any more? Cuz we're definitely not getting it under this law.

    The state's $2Bil budget deficit has something to do with the insurance law in addition to the faltering economy, in case you didn't know. The pols had an opportunity for setting woefully overdue insurance industry rules with standards (Care Share/Medical Loss Ratio) and accountability for how these huge sums of new public dollars are being spent. But they blew it.  Better not be a repeat of this on the national level.

    Green jobs progress, great. Health reform, we haven't even started yet.

  2. Could you kindly provide a list of these

    "green jobs?"  Or a least some of them?  

    • or one?

    • Follow the links.

      If the State has 20 times extra cash for weatherizing homes, it has to hire a whole lot more people to do that work.  That's jobs created - not to mention money saved for the people whose homes become more efficient.

      If the State gets $25m for a wind turbine center, that's jobs created now at the center.  And when the new turbines start getting rolled out to new wind farms across our State and in our coastal waters, there will be jobs created here.  Mass firms can help develop new technologies in the field and grow in doing so.  And someone has to keep the turbines running - someone local.

      Capeche!

  3. Ineffective use of state funds

    Well, I have to say, I can't read the entire text of the Green Jobs Act of 2008 without my head exploding, so I don't claim to be an expert.

    But what I did read wasn't inspiring.  It creates a fund which funds a "clean energy" research center in Charlestown, makes "targeted investments" in green energy, promotes "green jobs," makes grants to schools, colleges, and universities, has advisory boards, blah blah blah.

    On second thought, isn't this the same old state-agency pork pie BS warmed over with a cheap "green energy" dye job?  How long before we hear of some politician's brother-in-law getting a $1 million for doing nothing?

    Does anyone really believe having a $25 million slush fund managed by state employees will make much of a difference in jobs, green technology, or our local economy (besides $25 million being apportioned to political pals?)

    It's ironic that the state has mandated, IIRC, 15% renewable energy by 2012, and 30% by 2020.

    Yet try building a wind turbine project anywhere in MA ... unless it's a municipal project, it's next to impossible because of the very strict zoning regs and typical NIMBY attitudes.  Maybe one here and there, but nothing major.

    Cape Wind was the exception, and the last large scale project we'll ever see here in MA.  The rest will be built in ME and NH, especially ME when the new power line infrastructure is built from New England to Quebec.  VT is impossible, with RI and CT and MA close behind.

    MA and CT use 75% of the power in New England, but forget about siting anything in those states.

    • good point on the challenges

      I can't agree with the cynical criticism of the state's involvement, but you're are right on about the real regulatory challenges at local levels:

      Yet try building a wind turbine project anywhere in MA ... unless it's a municipal project, it's next to impossible because of the very strict zoning regs and typical NIMBY attitudes.  Maybe one here and there, but nothing major.

      Cape Wind was the exception, and the last large scale project we'll ever see here in MA.  The rest will be built in ME and NH, especially ME when the new power line infrastructure is built from New England to Quebec.  VT is impossible, with RI and CT and MA close behind.

      MA and CT use 75% of the power in New England, but forget about siting anything in those states.

      Maine is going to be huge once the transmission infrastructure is there. I know that Horizon Wind is planning a project in Maine that will (potentially) produce more power than Cape Wind. I don't much about Vermont, but I assume that Duke Energy, in buying the VT-based wind developer Catamount Energy last year, expect to be able to build there eventually. I doubt there's much resource in RI, but offshore RI and Cape Cod definitely have more potential that will be taken advantage of with the new MMS program and with the blade test facility and port infrastructure improvements in Mass.

      But the most challenging thing in Massachusetts is that there are small patches of strong resource, but not much overall, so it requires a lot different local governments and regulations, and it is extremely important for people to actively support wind projects and zoning by-laws in their community when it comes up, as the critics of local power projects will always be loudest, regardless of whether they're clean technologies or not.

    • I'm not so sure

      The blah blah blah head explosion inducing stuff is exactly the good stuff.

      Improving energy efficiency in public and private buildings in MA: * requires blue collar and some white collar jobs within MA * reduces operational costs, good for both gov't and private individuals and good for the economy (eliminating waste always results in increased total wealth) * reduced pollution of both air and water

      That's all good stuff, and worth doing.

      It's ironic that the state has mandated, IIRC, 15% renewable energy by 2012, and 30% by 2020.

      You misspelled incorrect.  The state has mandated we're at 7% of electricity generation by 2012 and 15% by 2020.  If you can't take the time to actually read the documents (or the explosion of heads), please don't "IIRC" troll.  The regs are spelled out clearly: 4% by 2009, +1% each year thereafter.  Additionally, kindly not confuse energy (oil + natural gas + electricity + biofuel + gasoline) with electricity.

      Yet try building a wind turbine project anywhere in MA ... unless it's a municipal project, it's next to impossible because of the very strict zoning regs and typical NIMBY attitudes.

      Really?  Here's some projects in MA which have been built within the past few years.  None are wind farms; they tend to be single turbines, and all online since 2005:

      Forbes Park (Chelsea) 0.6 MW Hyannis Country Garden (Hyannis) 0.1 MW Jiminy Peak Ski Resort (Hancock) 1.5 MW Hull II (Hull) 1.8 MW Massachusetts Maritime Academy (Buzzards Bay) 0.66 MW IBEW Local 103 (Dorchester) 0.1 MW Christy's Markets (Cape Cod?!) (??) MW

      So of those, exactly two are government agencies, and five are not.  It's true that these are not big projects, but you also ignore the real possibility of a Buzzard's Bay wind installation.

      Furthermore, wind isn't the only renewable energy source.  It's not even the most common right now (biomass).  There is currently a proposal to build a biomass plant in Central Mass.  Of course trash incinerators can be used to generate electricity, as do septic digesters.  In fact there are proposals to put wind and more biomass on Deer Island in the Boston Harbor.

      You are right that we're likely to import lots of electricity from northern New England.  So what?  We also import lots of paper and lumber from up north.  They've got more resources and fewer people.  The air doesn't discriminate -- soot is soot, carbon is carbon.  If Maine builds lots of turbines but uses banks, engineers, and manufacturing in Massachusetts to provide clean electricity to Massachusetts, where's the beef?

      MA and CT use 75% of the power in New England, but forget about siting anything in those states.

      Again, get some facts.  Here's Million MWh usage in New England, 2006 numbers, courtesy of the EIA: Connecticut 34.7 Maine 16.8 Massachusetts 45.6 New Hampshire 22.1 Rhode Island 6.0 Vermont 7.1

      You'll note that (34.7+45.6)/(132.3) = 61%, not 75%.  Again, quit making stuff up.  It's not what reality based is all about.

      I wouldn't have fed the troll were it not for the apparent hoodwinking of alexwill...

      • First Wind

        You mean companies like First Wind, HQ'd in Newton, MA, with projects in NY, VT, ME, NB, and six western states?

        And you both forgot about solar.  I attended the opening of the groSolar office in Billerica, which Niki Tsongas was good enough to attend.  

        • I didn't forget...

          just ignored it.  Until solar grows enough to contribute 1% to the grid in New England, it's a second-order contributor.  Sure solar's growth rates are huge, but it's got to sustain that growth for another handful of years before it's making a statistically significant impact on the grid in New England.

          That's not to say it can't be done -- just that it hasn't yet.

          • Compounded growth, baby

            I thought we were being forward-looking, and "a handful of years" doesn't require us to be too forward-looking.

            And look for SunRun to further accelerate growth- they offer a great deal.

            • I hope you're right

              I'd love to see it,  But, compounded growth in solar means some combination of (a) compounded gains in W/$, or (b) compounded growth of subsidy.  We might see a little of both, but will we see enough of them plus (c) growth in the daytime cost of generation to keep solar installations humming along?

              Like I wrote, I hope so.  In the mean time, if we're talking renewable, the numbers are in biomass, wind, and conservation.

    • Yeah

      I can't think of ANY (sorry, PDF) renewable energy projects that get approved in this state.

      None, whatsoever.

  4. 600 green jobs in Auburn

    Boston-Power just announced a plant in Auburn Mass, with 600 jobs: Green Car Congress has the press release / scoop.

    But check out some of the details:

    With support from Massachusetts officials...

    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will offer up to $9 million in matching financing...

    Founded in 2005 and with more than 60 patents filed, Boston-Power is led by Founder and CEO Dr. Christina Lampe-Onnerud...

    So here are 600 examples bostonshepherd...

    • Let's only hope

      That the newest corporate subsidy fares better than the last.  It too, was supported by Massachusetts officials, and backed by offers millions in matching financing, and was founded in recent years with piles of patents. And it was green.

      • Not everybody is a winner

        in fast moving, high tech, cutting edge technology.  That written, those companies which dissolve one way or another don't necessarily fail to contribute to progress.

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